FAYETTEVILLE — As a child, Victoria Huggins saw up close the effects of Alzheimer’s when she visited rest homes and serenaded sufferers.
Now, the 19-year-old Miss Fayetteville who grew up in St. Pauls wants to raise money through her music to help eradicate the disease while raising awareness about its devastating effects. As part of that effort, she will host the Forget Me Not Gala on May 31 at Destiny Now Church, 2569 Owen Drive in Fayetteville.
The gala will start at 6 p.m. and feature guest speaker Dr. Ben Bahr, a professor of biotechnology at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke who will share information from his research into Alzheimer’s.
“He thinks he’s found a genetic link, which is something we always suspected,” said Huggins, a rising junior at UNCP.
Lisa Gwyther, associate professor of psychiatry at Duke University School of Medicine, will discuss a new program of caregiver support that will be provided through Medicare and Medicaid.
The gala will feature a silent auction, hors d’oervres, music from Huggins and local artwork.
Tables with 12 seats are being sold for $500, and a table of eight costs $300. Individuals may donate any amount for admission.
“I don’t want to shut out caregivers … who may not be able to afford a ticket,” Huggins said.
All proceeds from the gala will go to the National Alzheimer’s Association and the Forget Me Not Project. Huggins hopes to raise at least $10,000.
Garrett Davis, CEO and founder of the Forget Me Not Project, will also headline the gala. He established the project as a tribute to his grandmother, who died of Alzheimer’s, and to the family members who cared for her during her illness.
The project, which is based in Winston-Salem, combines arts and information to educate people about Alzheimer’s disease, Huggins said.
The former “American Idol” contestant who made it to the Hollywood portion of the show during 2011 said that while she has been involved with previous galas, this will be her first time hosting one.
“When I won Miss Fayetteville, my platform was Alzheimer’s awareness with the Forget Me Not Project,” she said. “I knew I wanted to host a gala.”
Huggins said her parents took her to rest homes as a child to teach her the importance of respecting the elderly. Her favorite place to go in the homes was the Alzheimer’s unit, and she realized how important Alzheimer’s awareness was after seeing residents who did not recognize their relatives.
“It’s important to build a relationship with victims and their families,” Huggins said. “Families do not have any way to help their loved ones or help themselves through this difficult time period.”
Huggins hopes the gala will raise knowledge, understanding and research money for Alzheimer’s disease.
“I wanted to speak up for those who didn’t have a personality or a voice because it’s a silent killer,” she said. “It’s the sixth-leading cause of death in America. People know about it but don’t understand it.”
Alzheimer’s is the most common form of dementia. The disease worsens as it spreads through the brain, and eventually leads to death. There is no cure, and it is most commonly found in people older than 65.
For information about the gala, call Huggins at 910-865-4026.