Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Douglas College instructor takes Alzheimer's fundraising to new heights

Randy Alex, a long-time chemistry instructor at Douglas College, is combining his passion for mountain climbing with a grassroots fundraising campaign for the Alzheimer Society of B.C.

In January 2015, the Port Coquitlam resident will attempt to climb Argentina’s Mt. Aconcagua. At 6,900 metres, the mountain is the highest peak in the Americas and one of the “Seven Summits,” the highest points on each of the seven continents. In the months leading up to the climb, he will be encouraging colleagues from Douglas and others to donate to the society, and organizing community fundraising activities.

As a chemistry instructor and past scientific researcher, Randy says he would like to help increase knowledge of this disease, so an effective treatment can be developed.

“The Alzheimer Society of B.C. is a highly regarded organization that funds both research into Alzheimer’s disease and highly effective programs to support families travelling the dementia journey,” he says. “I am proud to couple my attempt to climb Mt. Aconcagua with various fundraising activities in support of the Alzheimer Society of B.C.”

Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative and fatal form of dementia in which brain cells are damaged, affecting memory, mood and thinking ability.

“Many people that I talk to have been touched in some way by Alzheimer’s disease, the root causes of which are not really understood. There is currently no effective treatment,” Randy says. “Alzheimer’s is not just a problem for those directly affected; immediate and extended family members must become long-term caregivers and are often emotionally impacted in a major way as a loved one typically withdraws and ultimately often fails to recognize them.”

Randy is also making Alzheimer’s a focus in his classroom this semester.

“In general, I like to try to excite my students about chemistry and science in the real world, in hopes of perhaps encouraging a few of them to consider a career in scientific research,” he says. “I have challenged my students to do some research into Alzheimer’s disease and will present a number of five-minute ‘the science behind Alzheimer’s’ items at the beginning of my classes.”

For Randy, Mt. Aconcagua is the next in a series of climbs he has completed over the past decade in Africa, Asia and North America. He has previously climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania and Island Peak, which is close to Mt. Everest.

“As a member of the so-called Boomer generation, I’m keenly aware of how lucky I am to enjoy the good health necessary for these climbs,” the 62 year old says. “One of the most important health challenges facing my generation is Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementias.”

Randy says he will pay 100 percent of his personal expenses for the climb and all funds he raises will go directly to the Alzheimer Society of B.C.

“I would be pleased to accept any donation people might be willing to offer,” he says.

For more information about the campaign and how to donate, email Randy or call him at 604 527 5223.