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Arts and Entertainment

Local Musicians "Rock to End Alzheimer's" at Fundraising Concert

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(Poster design courtesy Alzheimer's Association Greater Missouri Chapter)
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The local chapter of the Alzheimer's Association is holding a fundraiser and silent auction in conjunction with the CD release party for Donny Snow Harrell's newest album, “Dream Come True.”  It's the third "Rock to End Alzheimer's" event, Saturday April 8th from 5:00 to 8:30pm at Lindberg's Tavern, 318 W. Commercial Street.

Some six or seven years ago Harrell’s wife Char was diagnosed with “younger-onset Alzheimer’s”—that is, a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s prior to age 65, a condition that affects some 200,000 people in the United States.  Says Donny Harrell, “We went to the Alzheimer’s Association because they’re a support group and we wanted to raise money to help fight this disease and bring awareness to it.”

Describing his and his wife’s experience, Harrell says “That’s a tough blow when you first hear those words.  We noticed certain signs that something was wrong, but on the other hand I forget stuff... but it seemed that Char was a little bit worse.  It’s just such an awful disease—there’s no cure for it.”  The drugs that exists can halt the progress of the disease to an extent, but they certainly can’t reverse its effects.”

The “Rock to End Alzheimer’s” concert portion will include what Donny Harrell calls a “special guest,” Char Harrell herself, singing three songs from Harrell’s new CD.  (Harrell characterizes his music as “rock’n’roll, country, Americana—sometimes a little blues in it.” And in addition to Donny Harrell, the lineup includes Jenny Vinyard and the JV All Stars; Katie McCroskey; Barry Rowell (who also contributed a set of handmade canoe paddles for the silent auction), and local bluegrass band Fly By Night, a group especially recommended by Donny Harrell.  “These guys are just a wonderful bluegrass band.  I was at their rehearsal the other night and they just blew me away.”  The program will also include a set by the Harrells’ son Seth Truett and his band the Traitors.  “And our son, we’re excited about this—he’ll be doing John Lennon this summer down in Branson with the ‘Liverpool Legends.’”

Marie Murphree, Senior Associate Director of the Alzheimer's Association Greater Missouri Chapter, talks about what the Association does locally for Alzheimer’s patients and their loved ones and caregivers. “The money that is raised locally, a portion of it goes to fund research.  The Alzheimer’s Association is the third largest funder of research in the world, behind the U.S. government and the Chinese government. So that is an incredibly important aspect of what we do. But on top of that, on a local level, we provide support groups, we provide education.  We provide early-stage engagement, because we know that social engagement is very important in the early stages of the disease, continuing that social interaction.  All of the things that we do here in the local community are done at no charge. And so it is vitally important that we have people who come together and help us raise these funds to continue to do our work.”

Murphree says there are several families in the area who, like the Harrells, are affected by early-onset/younger-onset Alzheimer’s.  “When you’re struck while you’re still at working age, it’s devastating.”  Donny Harrell mentioned his and Char’s good friends—and indeed, someone I myself have known for more than 40 years, as we were in the same graduating class at Glendale High School in 1975—Jody and Anita Brazeale. “Jody was diagnosed at 53 years old. My heart just goes out to Anita, she’s basically the main caregiver for him.  It’s tough on families. It really is.”

All the more reason, then, to come to this “Rock to End Alzheimer’s” concert at Lindberg’s at 5:00pm Saturday April 8. Admission is $10 at the door, with 100 percent of proceeds from both the admission price and the silent auction going to support the Walk to End Alzheimer's team.  Speaking of the silent auction, Donny Harrell notes that if there are fans of the World Series champion Chicago Cubs in the area, his wife Char’s brother-in-law is a sports photographer who was hired by the Cubs organization to document the playoffs and the World Series.  And he has provided for the auction “a set of seven 8x10 action shots, close-ups, when the Cubs were celebrating their victory.”

Donny Harrell makes one more observation about his new CD “Dream Come True.” “My CD should be called ‘You’re My Dream Come True,’ because it is all about this young lady here, Char Harrell,” he says, indicating his wife sitting next to him, who chuckles at the dedication. “We met years ago in San Francisco, and she is my dream-come-true.”

Information about the concert is available online at http://act.alz.org/goto/rock2endalz, where you can also donate to the Rock to End Alzheimer’s team.  On Facebook (http://www.facebook.com), just search "Rock to End Alzheimer's."  Or you can call the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter at 886-2199.