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Somewhere Over the Rainbow team raises money for Alzheimer’s research

By Staff | Jul 6, 2018

Eight Somewhere Over the Rainbow team members raised money for Alzheimer's disease research Saturday. Left to right, Julia Wiley, Donna Verzich, Jenna Hott and Troy Sirbaugh; front row, Debbie Painter, Vie Welch, Caitlyn Wiley and Teather Wiley.

Within the time you read this article, at least one person will have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

The Alzheimer’s Association’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s is trying to stop Alzheimer’s disease by raising money for Alzheimer’s research, with the help of family-and-friend teams across the nation.

One of those teams, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, held a yard sale on the lawn of St. Agnes Catholic Church Saturday, as one of the many annual fundraising activities the 28-member group holds throughout the year.

“We’re a specific team made up mostly of family,” said Shepherd University graduate Teather Smith, who is now a social worker in Martinsburg.

Smith said the group raises about $9,000 a year for the Alzheimer’s Association to honor the memory of her grandfather, John Mark Wiley, Sr., of Harpers Ferry.

Wiley, a former bus driver in the Jefferson County School system, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2001. His ex-wife and Smith’s grandmother, Donna Verzich, let him live with her in her trailer for a year-and-a-half, until he started to become aggressive due to his dementia. He was then moved to a nursing home, where Smith’s mother, Julia Wiley, of Kearneysville, cared for him until his passing in January 2013.

“I was with him the day he was diagnosed, and I actually was with him when he passed,” Julia said, mentioning she prepared herself to help him by researching Alzheimer’s disease and reading books about people who were diagnosed with the disease. “The hardest thing about Alzheimer’s was when he didn’t recognize you anymore and then when he became immobile; when he couldn’t get up and take a walk with you, because he was wheelchair-bound.”

Although John knew Julia was his caregiver, he was unable to recognize her face as the disease progressed.

Eight months after his passing, the family joined together under the team name Somewhere Over the Rainbow, taking part in their first Walk to End Alzheimer’s in the Eastern Panhandle. The Walk to End Alzheimer’s in the Eastern Panhandle has 33 teams, which raise over $100,000 collectively each year, according to Smith.

Verzich said a medication has yet to be developed that can consistently alleviate and slow down the progression of the disease’s symptoms.

“If we can’t cure Alzheimer’s disease, I would at least hope to find a medication that would slow down Alzheimer’s effectively, so it wouldn’t happen so rapidly,” Verzich said.

To find out more about the 2018 Eastern Panhandle Walk to End Alzheimer’s, visit act.alz.org/site/TR/Walk2018/WV-WestVirginia?pg=entry&frid=11647.