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Poker ride continues fundraising efforts for Erma's Angels

Jun. 30, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

BARBOURSVILLE -- South Point resident Todd Gillette hopped on his motorcycle and took part in the first poker ride for Erma's Angels, a local organization dedicated to raising money for Alzheimer's research.

But Gillette wasn't just looking for a reason to ride on a sunny afternoon. Saturday's event, which started at Willie's Lounge in Barboursville, also would have been his father's 73rd birthday. Karl Gillette died from Alzheimer's in October 2010.

"It's a big deal," Gillette said of taking part in the ride. "It's a hard battle on the family, difficult to watch their frustration (trying to remember). Then you watch the family suffer as they lose the person they knew.

"Eventually, Dad forgot all of us," he said. "It was tough."

That's what happened to Erma Reed, who died in December 2010 at the age of 82. She struggled with Alzheimer's for several years, something that was difficult for her grandchildren, Jay Swann and his sister Rachel Torlone. That prompted them to start Erma's Angels, hosting golf outings and walks the past two years.

After raising more than $15,000, they decided to add a poker run to this year's lineup. A golf outing will be held in September.

"Grandma knew she was losing her memory and there's nothing you can do about it," Swann said. "We just want to battle to bring awareness."

That includes such facts as Alzheimer's being the sixth leading cause of death in the United States; more than five million Americans living with the disease; and one in three seniors dying from either Alzheimer's or dementia, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

Saturday's ride ended at the American Legion in Barboursville and included dinner, live music and door prizes.

For more information about the September golf outing, contact Becky Warden at 304-654-5822.

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