DERRY—A local teen is going the distance in the fight against Alzheimer’s, a disease that affects more than 22,000 people in the Granite State.
Samantha Meletis, 15, of Derry will be traveling to Washington ,D.C., for the Alzheimer’s Association’s Advocacy Forum to share her own personal story of how Alzheimer’s has affected a family member.
A sophomore at Pinkerton Academy, Meletis is the youngest member going on the trip, which runs from Monday, April 7, to Wednesday, April 9, according to a news release. During the Advocacy Forum, she will attend seminars on Alzheimer’s policy issues and then go to Capitol Hill to meet with legislators and tell her own story.
Meletis’s grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and currently lives at Greystone Farm Senior Living in Salem. Meletis has been one of the top young advocates for the disease in New Hampshire, the release said. Along with volunteering at Greystone, she participates in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.
“One of our top priorities is to increase Alzheimer research funding to help fight what is rapidly becoming a health care epidemic for our nation as the baby boomers age,” said Betsy Fitzgerald-Campbell, vice president of communications and public affairs of the Alzheimer’s Association, Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter. “We must find disease-altering treatments now.”
The Advocacy Forum seeks to educate members of Congress about the impact of the disease. More than 22,000 people in New Hampshire have Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
While there are more than 5 million Americans who have Alzheimer’s, national funding for research has lagged behind other major diseases, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. Recent studies have also shown that Alzheimer’s may be underreported as a cause of death, since death often occurs from complications of the disease.
“Samantha has always expressed an interest in being a special needs teacher,” said Meletis’s mother, Maureen. “Samantha treats my mother no differently and does not make her feel as if she is a burden.”
For Meletis and other attendees, highlights of the forum will include presentations, meetings with legislators, and dinners to help raise awareness of the Alzheimer epidemic, the release said.
The Alzheimer’s Association provides education and support for those dealing with Alzheimer’s and is the leading nonprofit when it comes to funding research into causes, cures and an eventual treatment for Alzheimer’s, according to the release.
Offices are located in Bedford and Lebanon, as well as Watertown, Raynham, Springfield and Worcester, Mass..