ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE: ‘Something we whisper about’

County’s Teen Miss takes it personally, plans gala in April

By Elaine Ezerins

Staff Writer

The Facts

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ST. ALBANS — Some 12,000 Vermonters ages 65 and older were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2015 and the numbers constantly grows. Yet the effects of the disease far outreach this demographic, affecting family members of all ages, including the Miss Franklin County Outstanding Teen of 2016, Jenna Lawrence.

“Right now in America, there are 5 million people that have Alzheimer’s,” Jenna, a 15-year-old student at Bellows Free Academy, said. “It’s a disease that grows every single day and at the rate it’s going, there will be 16 million people with Alzheimer’s in 15 years.”

“I chose Alzheimer’s for my platform because my grandmother has had Alzheimer’s since I was five years old,” she said. “I’ve seen the person she used to be diminish right in front of my eyes.”

The platform is her focus for the entire year she serves as outstanding teen for the county. The tagline: “Everybody has a brain so anyone can be affected.”

Jenna serves on the committee for the Franklin County Dementia Care Coalition. She also plans to help with The Longest Day, a Walk to End Alzheimer’s planned for St. Albans, as well as a potential Denim Day involving Green Mountain Power.

“Jenna’s platform of Alzheimer’s Awareness is one with a personal meaning to her as well as a growing reality for families all over Vermont and America,” Cookie Steponaitis, executive director of Miss Vermont Scholarship Organization, said. “She is living her platform and taking action to bring awareness, raise funds and show her generation the power of one person.”

Jenna said, “This year, I made it something that I live with everyday. It’s just a disease that doesn’t get a lot of voice. It’s something that we whisper about.”

The Gala

Jenna hopes to change this with her upcoming event, the First Annual Gala To Remember.

“It’s basically a dinner, dance and silent auction,” she said.

For $25, a ticketholder can enjoy dinner and drinks, dancing, a 50/50 raffle and a silent auction.

The event kicks off on Saturday, April 2 at the Knights of Columbus in St. Albans with a 5 p.m. cocktail hour, 6 p.m. dinner, and dancing until 10 p.m. In between, Jenna will auction goodies from local businesses and an original Jon Young painting.

“Jon Young has donated an original canvas,” Kim Lawrence, Jenna’s mother, said. “We’re going to be doing a special raffle for that the night of the event. It’s a barn scene. It’s gorgeous.“

All of the proceeds from the silent auction and raffle will benefit the Vermont Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

M & R Guns & Ammo shop in Highgate Center donated enough money to cover the expenses of the hall and the bartender.

Jenna also received two platinum sponsorships, $1,000 each, from Northwest Hearing Service and the owners of Franklin County Rehab, the Villa Rehab Center and Holiday House.

Kim hopes all of the funds raised on the night of the gala will go to the Alzheimer’s Association because the expenses to run the event have been covered by sponsorships.

Tickets for the gala are available but are selling quickly because there are only 180 of them.

To reserve tickets: call 802-582-5900 or e-mail Afterwards, the tickets can either be paid for in person on the night of the event or at this PayPal link: