Glen Campbell made our feet move, our hips sway, touched our hearts and made us smile with "Rhinestone Cowboy," "By the Time I get To Phoenix," and perhaps prophetically, "Gentle on my Mind" with lyrics like "By the rivers of my memory, ever smiling, ever gentle, on my mind." Now, the rivers of his memory are receding.
Glen Campbell has joined the list of millions diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease (AD). He has been saying goodbye to his many fans on a farewell tour, and recently issued a new album: Its title, Ghost on the Canvas, will resonate with anyone who understands the nature of Alzheimer's Disease.
And Campbell's family has joined the circle of loving partners, children, and friends who must watch helplessly as AD steals bits and pieces of the brain and identity of a man beloved, not just by them, but by country music lovers all over the world.
Helpless because there is no effective treatment and no cure. Not for Glen Campbell, or anyone else who is in the darkening web of Alzheimer's now. All we who love them and treat them can do -- and that is a lot -- is provide loving care and comfort and try to change the future for the next generation.
In a letter, Campbell's daughter Ashley, one of three of his children accompanying him on this tour, writes:
"I was in high school when my father, Glen Campbell, started having trouble remembering things. Soon after, in early 2011, the doctor told our family that he had Alzheimer's Disease.
"While performing on tour with my dad this past year, I have seen first-hand how this terrible disease slowly creeps in. It is stealing a devoted father from his family and a beloved talent from the world.
"My dad keeps saying to me, 'I love you, I love you so much.' I realize that soon he might not know that he loves me because he won't know who I am. So I do everything I can right now to let him know I love him since there's not much more I can do. There are no drugs available today to prevent, treat, or cure Alzheimer's.
"But there is hope. My family and I are partnering with Leonard A. Lauder and the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) to help fast track drug research -- if not in time for my father, then for the many others that will follow."
I have not met Ashley Campbell, but I share her heartache, and her determination to bring hope to the next generation. And, like her, I have embraced the work of ADDF. Founded in 1998 by Leonard and Ronald Lauder, ADDF's only mission is to accelerate the discovery of drugs to prevent, treat, and cure AD, related dementias, and cognitive aging. As all administrative costs are covered by a private foundation, every dime given to ADDF goes to drug research and related programs. In explaining his passion for the cause, Leonard Lauder once told me that (unlike a lot of other rich people) he has no interest in having a building or a wing with his name engraved on it. What he wants is a cure and better treatment for AD in his lifetime.
So, ADDF searches the world for the most promising projects, and has invested more than $54 million to fund nearly 400 drug research programs in 18 countries. Many of these have the potential to make a huge difference in the diagnosis and treatment of AD and, in a future blog, I will talk with Dr. Howard Fillit, Executive Director and Chief Science Officer of ADDF about some of the most promising projects.
ADDF is structured as a venture philanthropy model -- grants are given as investments so that if a project comes to market, ADDF shares in the profits which are then reinvested in new research grants. You can learn more about ADDF on its website, www.alzdiscovery.org. For now, in this season of giving, you might want to thank Glen Campbell for all the moments he shared with you through his music by making a donation in his name. ADDF is a registered charity in both the United States and Canada and contributions should be sent to The Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation, 57 West 57th Street, New York, N.Y., 10019, and marked "Glen Campbell tribute."