My support for the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF) stems from a familial place: my grandfather, after whom I am named, has been living with the disease for more than three years. It started slowly at first. My grandfather couldn't balance his checkbook or remember the day of the week. Basic math eluded him, which was especially heartbreaking as he had been an engineer before retirement.
As a family member, especially a close one, you feel helpless in such a situation. What can you do? How can you help alleviate the pain? For now the answer, sadly, is not much. Alzheimer's erodes your loved one's mental and physical stamina and robs sufferers of the ability not only to be present, but to say things left unsaid, to fulfill any planned last adventures.
It was while coming to terms with my grandfather's illness that I gained an interest in endurance sports, especially marathons. In early 2015 I decided to run the New York City Marathon, which meanders for 26.2 miles through all five boroughs of that amazing city. It wasn't enough for me, though, to train and merely finish. I wanted another purpose, another motivation to spend months training. While perusing the Marathon's website, I came across a listing for a charity fundraising option for several organizations, including the ADDF. Immediately I was intrigued, sensing an opportunity to help my grandfather and other Alzheimer's sufferers, in some small way.
In the ADDF I found an organization that used every penny it receives to directly fund Alzheimer's research. In an era of conflicting and opaque charity fundraising, that appealed to me. I made arrangements and immediately began to fundraise, and more importantly, to train for my first marathon.
I'm not going to lie to you: there were days when I didn't want to train for that race. On cold Sunday mornings, the drive to train for 20 miles or more isn't strong. But I pushed through, propelled by my support for my grandfather and the ADDF. I finished the 2015 NYC Marathon in 4:16, my legs throbbing and my feet numb. But I finished with the pride knowing I had helped, in some small way, move the needle forward to find a cure.
This November I'm again running the NYC Marathon and proudly fundraising for the ADDF. My grandfather unfortunately has moved full-time into assisted living, but I know he will be with me every step of the race.
To support Ernest Scheyder and the other members of the ADDF's 2016 TCS New York City Marathon team, please visit our Crowdrise page. All donations made to our team will support drug discovery research for Alzheimer's disease.
Ernest Scheyder is national energy correspondent at Reuters