Originally published in the Alzheimer's Association -- Western Carolina Chapter's E-News on March 20, 2019.
Gary Bernat received a life-changing email from the Boston Athletic Association in October of 2018. “It was really overwhelming. If there’s a moment that can get me to tear up a little bit, that’s the one”.
The moment Gary refers to is an acceptance as a runner in the 2019 Boston Marathon, where he is running with Team END ALZ to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.
Gary’s life has been peppered with Alzheimer’s disease on both parents’ sides; his maternal grandfather Joe (aka Poppy) passed away in 2008 from complications with the disease, followed by his paternal grandmother Jennie (aka Nana) in 2013. His mother served as the primary caregiver for his grandfather, all while working full time and raising a family. On a late-night car ride home from visiting his grandfather in the hospital, Gary’s mother got into a car accident from falling asleep at the wheel. She survived the wreck, but Gary said the occurrence emphasizes the emotional and physical toll caregiving can have on a person.
Gary and his wife Cassie have been involved with the Alzheimer’s Association since 2008, while still living in Massachusetts. In 2012, they relocated to Charlotte, where they annually attend the Charlotte Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Gary has been running for the cause for a number of years; most recently, he completed the Falmouth Road Race, raising $3,000 for the Association.
Gary feels honored to run in the Boston Marathon this year on Monday, April 15. “I understand and appreciate the prestige of running in this race”. The Boston Marathon has been held every year since 1896, and ranks as one of the world’s most prestigious running events. Gary’s goal is to raise $10,000 through Team END ALZ. To accomplish this, he and his wife have done “a little bit of everything; good old-fashioned emails and social media have been great tools for us”.