On Sept. 12, butterflies will fill the air at the Tyler Rose Garden —a symbol of hope for those affected by Alzheimer's disease.
The Alzheimer's Alliance of Smith County plans to release 1,300 butterflies into the Rose Garden at 1 p.m., commemorating people with Alzheimer's or other dementias as well as their care partners and families.
"This is our inaugural butterfly release," said Jamie Huff, community relations coordinator for the Alzheimer's Alliance. "The butterfly is a symbol of hope. When you have Alzheimer's it's like you're in a cocoon. When a person has Alzheimer's or another dementia, they seem to withdraw and become another person, even though they're not. We don't have a cure yet, but we have the greatest hope that there will be one someday."
The butterfly release will feature a 12-by-12-foot butterfly house for children to come and observe monarch butterflies and learn about the butterfly's migration pattern, said event chair Carol Mazzu. Then, a separate 1,300 will be released. Residents can reserve a butterfly in memory or in honor of a loved one or friend in advance for $25 each. All proceeds from the butterfly release stay locally to support the family care services of the Alzheimer's Alliance of Smith County.
Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for about 70 percent of all dementias in people age 65 and older.
From January to April, the Alzheimer's Alliance served 246 new client inquires and is serving 614 clients regularly. More than 400 people in the community attended educational events from January to April.
"Alzheimer's disease is a progressive, irreversible, fatal brain disorder with no known cause or cure," according to information from the organization's website. "Symptoms of the disease include memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, personality changes, disorientation and loss of language skills. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of irreversible dementia."
Even those who can't purchase a butterfly are encouraged to attend, Ms. Huff said.
The release also features a proclamation by Tyler Mayor Barbara Bass and refreshments compliments of Brookshire Grocery Co.
"Whereas it is a fundraiser, the fundraising part isn't our primary focus," alliance Executive Director Jana Humphrey said in an email. "The butterfly release brings people together around a shared experience, concern or interest. Communitywide, it will raise awareness. Although Alzheimer's disease and other dementias are difficult, the Alzheimer's Alliance is here for individuals affected and their families. We are a good resource to assist families through the journey and the community, at large."
The Alzheimer's Alliance of Smith County will also present its annual "Butterfly Hope Luncheon," this year featuring Mark Kennedy Shriver, nephew of the late John F. Kennedy, from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sept. 16 at Willow Brook Country Club in Tyler.
This year's focus is "Alzheimer's: A Journey of Love, Care and Hope."
Shriver will share insights into his famous family's journey and his personal struggles with his father's disease. Shriver's father, Sargent Shriver, suffered from Alzheimer's. Shriver has authored a book, "A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver."
Currently, Shriver is senior vice president of Save the Children's U.S. programs and is also an advocate for Alzheimer's issues and awareness.
Tickets are $65 each and must be purchased in advance by calling the Alzheimer's Alliance, 903-509-8323. Reserve a butterfly by calling the Alzheimer's Alliance or visit www.alzalliance.org.