Cover Stories

Hope & Help: Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Missouri

Alzheimer’s disease is an issue that deeply affects those touched by it. The condition causes progressive mental and physical decline in people of all backgrounds, and it’s difficult for patients’ families and caregivers to live with as well. It’s also an issue the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Missouri is dedicated to solving through education, advocacy, research and patient services. The local association is part of a national organization that is the world’s largest private funder of Alzheimer’s research.

The early stages of the disease include symptoms like memory loss and personality changes; later, patients may develop delusions, paranoia and other serious problems. In its final stages, the condition can steal the person’s ability to communicate, perform normal tasks and control bodily functions, among other things. About 5.6 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s, including 100,000 Missourians, according to association data.

Longtime supporters Mark S. Wrighton and Risa Zwerling Wrighton say the organization’s mission will become even more critical as these figures rise. As part of their commitment to the local chapter, the couple is co-chairing the 2019 Affair to Remember Gala, one of its biggest fundraisers of the year. The event, Imagine a World Without Alzheimer’s, takes place April 13 at The Ritz-Carlton and includes cocktails, dinner, music, dancing and auctions. Carol Daniel of KMOX will emcee, and Washington University neurologist Dr. Randall Bateman will receive the Visionary Pioneer Award for his fundamental study of the disease. U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt, a longtime advocate, will be recognized for his support of key biomedical research.

Mark Wrighton, chancellor of Washington University, says he first learned about the impact of Alzheimer’s through programs and research at the university’s medical school. “We’ve been watching the aging dynamics of populations in the U.S. and other countries and have seen major challenges arise,” he notes. “At the same time, there’s a real opportunity to educate the public.” He says both the university and association are contributing to a level of understanding that eventually will help prevent Alzheimer’s and slow its progression.

“Most people fear the idea of losing their memory and developing dementia,” says Zwerling Wrighton, a former academic adviser at the university. “We are very interested in research strides being made, including a possible correlation between dementia and managing blood pressure. The effort is building traction, and it’s very promising. We think it’s important for people to tune in to the impact of Alzheimer’s and take a personal interest in this devastating disease.”

The gala and other fundraising programs continue a strong tradition of Alzheimer’s advocacy in St. Louis, according to the association’s vice president of development, David Armstrong. “We provide families with help in the form of care and support, and hope in the form of research,” he says. “The first survivor is out there somewhere. Our gala helps put us one step closer to a world without Alzheimer’s.”

The Alzheimer’s association of Greater Missouri increases knowledge of the condition and provides services to patients and families. Its 2019 Affair to Remember gala is April 13 at The Ritz-Carlton; the event’s title sponsors are Emerson and Centene Corp. Alzheimer’s families can access 24-hour help through the association’s hotline at 800.272.3900. Pictured on the cover: event co-chairs Mark. S Wrighton and Risa Zwerling Wrighton. For more information about the gala, call 314.801.0444 or visit

Cover design by Allie Bronsky
Cover photo by Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography

Pictured at top: Affair to Remember co-hairs Mark S. Wrighton and Risa Zwerling Wrighton
Photo: Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography