'Big Tom' Buchanan to participate in fundraiser for Alzheimer's research

By Greg Miller


'Big Tom' Buchanan, who rose to fame in the television show, "Survivor," will be at Leta's Specialty Shop & Interiors/Merle Norman Cosmetics, 541 E. Elk Ave., on Friday, Oct. 4, from 4-6 p.m. in an effort to raise money for Alzheimer's research.
   "He's a personal friend of ours," said Leta Hale, owner of Leta's and coordinator of the fund-raising event. "He's coming for that reason and donating all of his time and his energy and his talent, and he has a lot of it. He's a very personable person and has lots of charisma. He poses really well. This is a chance for people to meet him and have their picture made with him."
   "We want to make a lot of money," Geri Richard said. "Big Tom is a good draw, but we want people to be more aware of Alzheimer's and what all is going on with it."
   "Most people are unfamiliar with it," Hale said.
   "Very unfamiliar," Richard said. "Before I had dealings with it, I had heard about it but never learned anything about it."
   Register of Deeds Johnny Holder is donating his time and film to take the 5"x7" photographs. Wal-Mart in Elizabethton is developing the film at a substantial discount, Hale said. Couriers will leave Leta's at periodic intervals to transport the film to Wal-Mart for developing.
   Hale and Richard both have relatives with Alzheimer's, a progressive, degenerative disease of the brain, and the most common form of dementia. "So we are all particularly interested in this disease due to that fact," Hale said.
   "One in 10 people have a family member who has Alzheimer's," Richard said.
   According to information from the Alzheimer's Association, Northeast Tennessee Chapter, approximately 4-6 million Americans have the disease. Unless a cure or prevention is found, 16 million Americans will have Alzheimer's by the middle of this century. One in 10 persons over 65 and nearly half of those over 85 have Alzheimer's. A small percentage of people in their 30s and 40s get the disease. A person with Alzheimer's will live an average of eight years and as many as 20 years or more from the onset of symptoms.
   Alzheimer's is a costly disease. At least $100 billion is spent annually on Alzheimer's disease. Neither Medicare nor most private health insurance covers the long-term care most patients need. Alzheimer's is costing American businesses more than $61 billion annually.
   Half of all nursing home residents suffer from Alzheimer's or a related disorder. The average cost for nursing home care is $42,000 per year, but can exceed $70,000 annually in some areas of the nation. The average lifetime cost per patient is $174,000.
   Proceeds from Friday's fund-raiser will go to the Alzheimer's Association, Northeast Tennessee Chapter. In addition to Hale and Richard, Leta's other employees -- Michelle Taylor, Diane Barfield and Joyce Birchfield -- will assist with the fund-raiser.
   The cost of having a photo taken with Buchanan, who will also be signing his autograph for those who ask, is $6.
   "There is a support group dealing with Alzheimer's and other dementia problems at the Elizabethton Senior Citizens Center the first Tuesday of every month at 7:15 p.m.," Richard said.
   Butch Edmondson, a local musician, will be performing during the event.
   For more information, call 543-5382.