Watching her elderly father cope with advancing symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease has inspired Evergreen resident Bell Brinn to ride her bicycle from California to Florida.
“I’m doing this as a fund-raiser for Alzheimer’s,” Brinn said while talking about her upcoming tour.
Since deciding to make the trip, Brinn has received $8,000 in donations for the Colorado chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Her goal is raising $15,000 by March when she begins her journey with a Women’s Tours group.
“I’ve known for years I’ve wanted to do this,” said Brinn. “I’ve always loved cycling.”
The two-month tour will be challenging for Brinn because it is the longest she has ever attempted. She has completed 10-day trips through Glacier National Park, Canada and one of the canyons of the Southwest, but not tours lasting 58 days.
To get into shape, Brinn said she is training daily on spin bikes at the Wulf Recreation Center.
“I think it will be a life-changing experience,” said Brinn. “This has been on my bucket list forever — a perfect opportunity to incorporate it through fund-raising.”
Brinn and the other women on the tour are planning to cycle 55 miles a day, traveling a southern route from Sandy Diego, Calif., to St. Augustine, Fla. A tour van will travel with the women, most of whom are in the 60-year-old age range.
The tour company provides food and lodging and carries gear for the cyclists.
“My only job is to wake up and bike,” said Brinn.
Wearing a T-shirt with an ALZ Stars logo, Brinn talks about her mission to help people with the debilitating disease.
The ALZ Stars program of the Alzheimer’s Association encourages athletes to increase awareness of the disease and raise funds by participating in events such as running, biking, hiking and mountain climbing.
The number of people with Alzheimer’s is staggering, said Brinn. Supporting the association’s efforts in the areas of research, support and care for patients has been gratifying, she said.
A year ago Brinn began volunteering two days a week at the Denver office of the Alzheimer’s Association.
“That’s been unbelievably fulfilling to me,” she said. “They’ve been my best cheerleaders.”
The past four years since her father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease have been difficult for Brinn. To be with him as much as possible, she quit her job and began making frequent trips to New Jersey where he and her mother live.
Watching her 89-year-old father deteriorate is difficult, said Brinn.
“This is a man who jogged until he was 80 years old,” she said.
Her father is an intelligent, well-educated person with law and accounting degrees.
“It’s very hard to see the decline of a brilliant mind,” she said.
At this point in time, her father can talk very little and needs assistance for daily activities. He has around-the-clock care at his home.
While talking about the disease, Brinn points to the increasing incidence of it in the elderly population.
According to statistics from the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.4 million people in the United States have the disease, including 50 percent of those over the age of 85.
In Colorado, there are 72,000 people living with Alzheimer’s, with an expected increase to 110,000 by 2025.
Alzheimer’s disease, which affects the brain and leads to severe mental and physical impairment, is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, the association reports.
To make a contribution to Brinn’s fund-raiser, visit http://act.alz.org/goto/sharibellbrinn.
The entire donation will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.
Contact Sandy Barnes at email@example.com or call 303-350-1042.