Silver Linings: Noah knows you're never too young to get involved
Noah VonDette of Hillsborough took to the stage in front of 1,300 people in Washington, D.C., last month to talk public policy and advocate for more research dollars to combat Alzheimer's disease.
And he's only 9 years old.
Noah was the youngest of the advocates from across the country who went to Washington to educate members of Congress about the impact of Alzheimer's disease.
Noah attended seminars on Alzheimer's policy issues, networked with other advocates and listened to people affected by the disease share their stories with Congress.
"It was amazing. I was nervous but at the same time I felt proud of myself for talking about these issues," Noah said.
Noah is the son of Nichole VonDette, who works for the Alzheimer's Association Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter. Because of his mom's work, Noah did some volunteering in a memory-care unit. He visited with patients, sang to them and colored with them.
"I enjoyed spending time with them. Sometimes I forgot they had the disease because we had so much fun," Noah said.
Nichole VonDette said his time volunteering fueled his devotion to help people with the disease, and it was evident when he attended the different events at the Alzheimer's Association Advocacy Forum.
"Noah's experience volunteering with the residents made a tremendous impression," Nichole VonDette said. "After attending the seminars on Alzheimer's policy issues he was even sharing the facts with the cab drivers as we navigated the city."
Noah has a lot of goals. When he grows up he wants to be "an engineer, a teacher, a researcher and a singer." For now he hopes those in Washington heard his message "so no more Americans or anyone else can develop this disease."
He also wants other kids to get involved.
"We are the future," he said.
According to the Alzheimer's Association, more than 5 million Americans are living with the disease. Alzheimer's is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States, and the only disease in the top 10 that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed.
"We know that Alzheimer's disease remains one of the most critical public health issues in America," said Heather Carroll, manager of Public Policy of the Alzheimer's Association, Massachusetts/New Hampshire Chapter.
"As we continue to push for research funding and improvement in care and treatment, we need more young advocates like Noah to lead the charge."
Silver Linings is a continuing Union Leader/Sunday news report focusing on the issues of New Hampshire's aging population and seeking out solutions. Union Leader reporter Gretchen Grosky would like to hear from readers about issues related to aging. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-7739. See more at www.unionleader.com/aging.