BALTIMORE (WJZ) — For the last 14 years, the Memory Ball has been the biggest fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association of Maryland, with thousands of spectators raising hundreds of thousands of dollars.

It’s going virtual this year, but it’s mission is still up close and personal.

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In 2020, the Alzheimer’s Association reported more than 110,000 Marylanders 65 and older were battling the disease.

“It’s a really heartbreaking disease, it’s a disease that affects every person differently,” said Jeff Bathurst, Alzheimer’s Association of Maryland.

“There is the actual fundraising competition of the dancers who raises the most money and then there is actually the dancing competition,” he said.

This year, the pandemic is forcing this crucial event online. But for Jeff and so many caregivers and loved ones, the cause remains deeply personal.

“Actually, my mother and my father-in-law have Alzheimer’s,” Jeff said. “At every event they go around looking for volunteers for next year’s dance competition, so I was volunt-told that I needed to put my hand up, so I competed in 2019.”

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Jeff and his partner won that year. But the true trophy is advocating for others.

“It’s a huge shift for the family for people of family members who have Alzheimer’s. You essentially mourn them while they’re living. Because who they are in most cases goes away,” he said.

While the complexity of the brain and Alzheimer’s remains a mystery, Jeff doesn’t miss a chance to educate others.

“You decrease the chances the chances of getting Alzheimer’s by maintaining a healthy blood pressure, reducing heart disease and getting the right amount of sleep and exercising,” Jeff said.

As the organization fights for a cure, you can help.

“Even though we can’t meet in person for an event,” Jeff said. “It’s really important to continue supporting this organization in any way that people can.”

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