How my birthday party raised $20K for Alzheimer’s Research and changed my life

The year that my Mom turned 75, I was staring down my 50th birthday.  In every free moment, my mind filled with one subject: Alzheimer’s.  Mom has it.  Will I?  Has it started already? When will I start showing signs?  Is there a way to be diagnosed?

At just the right moment, I was given a life-changing gift.  The President of my Rotary Club had made a commitment that every member of the Board would attend the District Conference in Pawley’s Island, SC that year.   I really should have been at my parent’s house that April weekend, putting away Mom’s wool pants and sweaters, and bringing out her summer blouses.  Instead, I was at the coast, in a blustery storm for the weekend.  Great.

By Saturday night, the temperature had dipped so low I wore slacks under my gown to the banquet.  After dinner, District Governor Kim Gramling was introduced and stepped to the podium.  She began her introduction of the keynote speaker.  DG Kim introduced the speaker as someone she admired so much that she had invited him to be here tonight four years ago.  The speaker’s topic would be Rotary’s effort to cure Alzheimer’s disease.  And then she introduced Roger Ackerman, the founder of a project called “Coins for Alzheimer’s Research Trust”  or CART.

Roger Ackerman began with these words:  “My mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s for 18 years, the last five of which she knew none of us.”   Her story inspired Roger and his Rotary Club to set their sights on making an impact in the cure for Alzheimer’s.  Back in 1995, Roger identified the need for seed money to test cutting edge Alzheimer’s research ideas. His club, the Sumter SC Rotary, began collecting pocket change with the goal of one day bestowing a grant for cutting edge Alzheimer’s research.  The first grant of $100,000 was awarded in 1999.  Since then, grants have been made every year.  100% of each donation goes to Alzheimer’s research, and the program is run by volunteer Rotarians.  (Learn all about it at )

During Roger’s talk, my clouds parted.  I could see that rather than dreading my birthday, and feeding my fear, it was time for me to get busy living.  If one Rotarian could ignite such a crucial project – and pay for it with pocket change – I could certainly invite my friends to support CART Alzheimer’s research grants in lieu of birthday gifts. 

I invested about five weeks in July and August 2013 to put together a benefit for The CART Fund in honor of my Mom.  Makin’ Memories for Alzheimer’s Research was held on August 23, and a private house concert was held on August 24th.  Together they raised $20,000 for Alzheimer’s research grants from The CART Fund.

 I thought this was the happy ending of my Alzheimer’s story. 

As it turned out, it was just the beginning…

Grief is a mighty fuel.   The next time you are living with it, I encourage you to direct it to a good purpose.  I began to put my grief-fuel into curing Alzheimer’s disease.  I found that the more I volunteered for CART, the more I learned about Alzheimer’s.  The more I learned, the more I could contribute, and the more I wanted to share the story.  I met the researchers who received the CART grants funded by my birthday donation. I learned what sparked their research. I learned what motivated them.  I shared these things when I visited Rotary clubs, and they inspired individuals and clubs to new levels of support.  On these visits, I met people traveling their own Alzheimer’s journeys.  They shared their stories, I shared mine. And as I shared my stories I saw that they gave others comfort.

On December 6, 2014, I launched The Perfect Thing  blog website.  As stories from my family’s Alzheimer’s journey came to mind I would share them on the blog.  Even thought I told these stories out of chronological order, people really connected with them.

Which brings me to February 2017.

I am very proud that The Perfect Thing has matured.  Our first two publications for families getting through Alzheimer’s will be available in March 2017:  Patterns at Hand & Patterns at Time

I invite you to continue to share my journey of supporting Alzheimer’s families and curing Alzheimer’s with me.  My sense is that I’ll be on this road for a long time to come.

Your Friend on the Journey,

Barbara Ivey

Makin’ Memories to Benefit Alzheimer’s Research

[Originally posted on August 21, 2013 on]

Dear Mom,

I am sorry that you won’t be able to celebrate my birthday with me this year.  So I decided to give you a present. I decided to honor you with a concert that will benefit Alzheimer’s Research. There are so many things about this event that you will be pleased to hear…

Verlon Thompson & Shawn Camp are performing.  I am a big fan – and I know you are too!

 Verlon Thompson &  Shawn Camp headline Alzheimer's Research Benefit for CART
Verlon Thompson &  Shawn Camp headline Alzheimer’s Research Benefit for CART
  • Friends are sharing photos of their loved ones who have been stricken with AD. You know from going through this with your mother how Alzheimer’s takes away the identities of its victims.  That is why we are collecting photos of Alzheimer’s victims “in their prime”, to honor who they were.
  • The Saloon at the NC Music Factory has donated their venue. Yee Haw!
  • Volunteers are stepping forward to offer their talents – including Sheila Neisler Catalyst – A Marketing Company who donated marketing services, Ann Edenfield who is serving as our vivacious Emcee, Josh Herbert who has donated his photography skills, and a team of willing Rotarians who will work the door, sell CDs and help with things that arise during the event.
  • Two Rotary Districts are supporting this benefit: Rotary District 7750 in Upstate SC, and Rotary District 7680 in the Charlotte region of NC. When I mentioned this project to the District Governors, the only question they had was: How can we help? Rotarians are inspiring!
  • Friends, old and new, are coming out to celebrate. Some are coming for the music. Some are coming because they are fans of Some are coming for the chance to tease me about my odometer turning over to a nice round number. I am looking forward to welcoming each and every one.

There is another, very important reason why I know that news of this benefit will make you happy.  That reason is the organization that will benefit from the event.  This spring, I learned about, and the meticulously prudent way it provides grants for Alzheimer’s Research. You will be glad to know that…

  1. gives 100% of all funds received to Alzheimer’s Research. It’s charter sets a high bar for financial stewardship.
  2. supports cutting edge Alzheimer’s Research. This is critical, as there is still so much we do not know about AD – from how to diagnose and prevent it, to how to cure it.
  3. received more than 80 grant requests in 2012. It was only able to support two grants with financial backing. That means that many promising research projects were left unfunded.

The last time you visited me, it confused and agitated you.  My home has become a strange and frightening place to you.  It broke my heart to see you try all the doors, looking for the way out.  Since you are safe and happy in your new home, I will be content with you being there, while we celebrate for you here. Thank you for being my Mom. I hope you are as proud of me as I am of you.  – With love from Barbara

“Makin’ Memories to Benefit Alzheimer’s Research” will be on Friday, August 23, 2013 at The Saloon at the NC Music Factory in Charlotte NC. Doors open at 5 pm. Verlon Thompson and Shawn Camp will perform from 6-8 pm. Every dollar collected goes to cutting edge Alzheimer’s Research through  Advance tickets are available for $10 through 8/22/13. Tickets will be available at the door for $20. Photos of Alzheimer’s patients “in their prime” can be emailed to:


You may also enjoy…

Get Busy Living Service Above Self


Your Cart