Tulsa brothers pave the way in Alzheimer's fundraising
TULSA, Okla. (KTUL) —
Enter the independent living retirement community of Senior Star at Burgundy Place and you’ll likely feel right at home with private residences, stellar dining experiences and residents enjoying quality time with family and friends. But spend five minutes with owners Bill and Bob Thomas and you’ll realize you are amid a group of people with a shared purpose that extends well beyond the front door of the community.
"We have a great deal of optimism," said Bill Thomas.
"We believe we can change the course of Alzheimer's disease, and I think we're doing it," said Bob Thomas.
And that's not just a feel-good phrase. Over the past 20 years, Bob has been intensely involved as a board member on the local and national level in raising both awareness and funds for the Alzheimer’s Association, a group he and Bill believe is the leading voluntary health organization in Alzheimer’s care, support and research.
"As employees, we raise almost $600,000 or we believe we will raise $600,000 for the walk to end Alzheimer's," said Bob.
And that's just this year with their company, Senior Star. On a national level Bob dove into politics and played a key role in getting decision makers to spend more money on Alzheimer’s research.
"And what we've seen there is an impact from the mid $450 million range six years ago to close to $1.4 billion dollars in funding today," said Bill.
Why do all this? Sure, like most families they've had a personal brush with the disease…
"For us, our first connection was when we were teenagers, my grandmother had Alzheimer's," said Bill.
But beyond that, they've simply been moved by the toll that's been taken on some of their residents and families at any one of their 14 retirement communities located in six states that offer a variety of living options including independent and assisted living as well as memory support for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia.
"All of us have seen the personal side of Alzheimer's, and really just what an insidious disease it is," said Bob.
"It is interesting that of the ten major diseases that exist in this world, that Alzheimer's is the only one that has neither a treatment, nor prevention, nor a cure," said Bill.
This is where most people would look at something as big as Alzheimer's and make it someone else's problem. Not Bill and Bob. Bob currently serves on the board of the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, AIM, the sister organization of the Alzheimer’s Association, a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization that works to make Alzheimer’s a national priority. For Bill’s part, he is gearing up to begin serving on the National Alzheimer’s Association board, pending an October election.
The brothers truly embody what it means to lead by example. At the Senior Star headquarters, located downtown in Tulsa, associates are encouraged to be recognized leaders in the Alzheimer’s cause.
"We are so committed to this cause that we have a full time employee that dedicates at least 50% of her time to the Alzheimer's cause, keeping us very engaged," said Bob.
Senior Star is a member of the American Seniors Housing Assoiction (ASHA), an organization that represents more than 500 companies involved in the full spectrum of housing and services for seniors. In 2016, ASHA member companies formed over 2,000 teams for the Walk to End Alzheimer’s®, and raised over $5.1 million.
The Thomas brothers hope to inspire other companies, especially those who serve older adults, to invest—or invest further in support of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Two brothers whose names you probably didn't know as vanguards in the war against a memory stealing monster.
"We're believers that if you feel committed, you come together, you create a vision around something, you can make a difference," said Bob.
"We all believe now we're changing the world," said Bill.
Two brothers whose names will never be forgotten once the tragedy of an Alzheimer's diagnosis has been.
"We really can make this happen, and we will make this happen," said Bill.
Chairing the Tulsa Walk to End Alzheimer’s® this year is Ashli Montgomery and her husband, Tulsa University Head Coach Philip Montgomery. They invite everyone in the community to come out and participate in the Walk, which is taking place Saturday, September 23rd at University of Tulsa Dietler Commons. There is no registration fee for the Walk. However, they ask every walker to make a personal donation and commit to raising funds in the fight against Alzheimer’s.
To register, go to TulsaWalk.org. All registered participants will receive a link to purchase discounted football tickets and tailgating spots for the Alzheimer's Awareness Game at 12:30 p.m.