DENVER — The Colorado Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, a nonprofit leading the way to try to end Alzheimer's and other dementia, is hosting The Purple Gala Saturday night.
The Purple Gala, featuring a live Memories in the Making Art Auction, will be held virtually at 6:30 p.m. on April 24.
Former News Anchor Libby Weaver, and Annabel Bowlen, the daughter of the late Pat Bowlen, owner of the Denver Broncos, are Co-Chairs and emcees of the event.
"We've got to battle this. We've got to take it head on, and do something about it," Weaver said. "It really hit home for our family a two years ago. We lost my mom to Alzheimer's."
Weaver told Denver7 there was no history of the disease in her family, "so it came as a complete shock."
She said she became involved with the Alzheimer's Association because she was terrified.
"I think a lot of people are," she said. "Unless people start talking about it and putting aside the fear and start raising some money and doing some things, we're going to continue living in fear."
It's a similar story for Annabel Bowlen.
"My mother was very passionate and driven to find a cure for this disease, especially for my father," she said, "and when my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's, I thought it was important for me to get involved as well, because it had a special place in my mother's heart, and it kind of has a special place in my heart now, too."
The Co-Chairs will auction off professional artwork paired with paintings created by Alzheimer's patients, as part of the Memories in the Making Project.
"Memories in the Making is a program where people with Alzheimer's and dementia paint in watercolor," said Amelia Schafer, the nonprofit's executive director. "We have several thousand pieces submitted to the Alzheimer's Association. A professional jury selects the pieces to be entered into the auction."
Schafer said the Memories in the Making program is "a bright spot in what can be a dark disease."
She told Denver7 they hope to raise $300,000 this year.
"We're not sure what a virtual event is going to look like, but that's what we're aiming for — close to 300,000," she said.
Schafer recently reached out to the Loveland Police Department, offering to help train officers in how to spot Alzheimer's or dementia when symptoms aren't readily apparent.
LPD is under the microscope after a federal lawsuit was filed by a 73-year-old woman who was injured during an arrest for shoplifting. She has Alzheimer's.
The department accepted Schafer's offer.
Schafer said it's wonderful how the professional art community has gotten involved.
Several well known artists have contributed pieces to be auctioned off "in pairs" with some of the water colors by the Alzheimer's patients.
"You probably know the name John Fielder," said gala organizer Nancy Thompson, referring to the nationally renowned photographer, who lost his wife to Alzheimer's.
"He's always so generous to us," she said. "He's always committed to us and does something beautiful every year."
Michelle Norcross is another professional artist who has contributed to The Purple Gala.
"She's also a Colorado District Court Judge," Thompson said.
"We have over 40 professional community artists who come and paint pieces to be paired with the artwork of an individual with Alzheimer's," Schafer said, so often that art is auctioned off together. These artists are fantastic and amazing. They often have their own following, so they can bid the art up a bit, which is great."
Schafer said one piece of art is close to her heart.
"Two years ago, during the auction, I purchased a piece by same artist, Ms. Dorlé Green, and it is eerie how similar it is to this piece," she said, showing the latest rendition of the same subject. "You can definitely see the progression (of the disease) in her art from the piece I got two years ago to this piece. So I am going to be bidding on this piece all night and I dare somebody to get in a bidding war with me because we'll raise more money for our cause, but I would love to win this piece, but I'd also love to raise money for our organization."
The 40 plus original pieces by local community artists, being paired with some of the Memories artwork, will be reserved for the live online auction, which begins at 6:30 Saturday evening.
All proceeds from The Purple Gala help fund programs and services at the Alzheimer’s Association - Colorado Chapter.
The Alzheimer's Association is working to accelerate global research, reduce risk, improve early detection and maximize quality of care and support.
Weaver said she's glad to be a part of the auction.
"It's a way for me to have a special piece of art in my home that really has a personal meaning," she said.