Saint James student helps in battle against Alzheimer's

September 30, 2005|by TIFFANY ARNOLD


Even though Alzheimer's is not a young person's disease, 16-year-old Chase Thomas is feeling its effects.

Chase said a friend of his family recently was diagnosed with the disease.

"It was kind of troubling to me," he said. "I wanted to get involved with this to help people like her."

Chase, a junior at Saint James School, volunteers for the Alzheimer's Association's Western Maryland Chapter. For the past three years, he has convinced classmates to help out at the Alzheimer's Association's Memorial Walk. This year's event will be Oct. 16 at Hagerstown Community College.


There are about 2,700 people in Washington County with Alzheimer's, said Mary Ellen Mitchell, development coordinator for the Alzheimer's Association.

She said for each person with Alzheimer's, there are another four - typically the person's family members, caregivers and friends - who are affected by the disease.

Mitchell said 10,000 people in Washington County are affected by Alzheimer's disease.

"It's not a disease that people Chase's age have to think about, but it's something that affects their grandparents and even their parents in some cases," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said most of the people who worked at the event were one-time volunteers.

"What makes Chase uncommon is that he keeps on coming back," Mitchell said. "What's been nice is that we've been able to rely on Chase and the students at Saint James."

At the walk, students help set up and clean up, serve food and beverages, and help walkers find their way, Mitchell said.

Chase said he expects around 10 to 15 student volunteers to sign up this year. Mitchell said most event volunteers prepare for a six-hour day.

"Teenagers giving up half their weekend? That's quite a contribution to me," Mitchell said.

Kurt Muller, Latin instructor and volunteer coordinator at Saint James, said Chase has always been active in the school's community service projects.

"He's always shown a good bit of initiative," Muller said.

Muller said Chase initiated the school's volunteer efforts at the Alzheimer's Association and said he spearheaded a 2004 summer volunteer project at the Food Resources warehouse in Hagerstown.

Though the school requires students to complete 60 hours of community service before they graduate, Muller said Chase has probably exceeded the minimum requirements.

"He does it because he wants to, not because he has to," Muller said.

Chase, who lives in Frederick, Md., said volunteer work is part of growing up.

"If you're in one spot for so long, you'll never be able to see everything," Chase said. "To be able to help others makes me realize what I have."

If you go ...

  • What: Alzheimer's Association of Western Maryland "Memory Walk"

  • When: Sunday, Oct. 16. Registration at 12:30 p.m. Walk at 2 p.m.

  • Where: Hagerstown Community College ARCC

  • For information: Call 301-797-4892 or visit
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