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The Tennessee athletic department has been selling orange T-shirts that say “We Back Pat” for the past two months, with proceeds from the sale going to Alzheimer’s Tennessee and the UT Medical Center for research and programs related to Alzheimer’s disease at Summitt’s request.

Alzheimer’s Tennessee also will be the beneficiary of a December concert given in nearby Maryville, Tenn., by country music star Glen Campbell, who revealed in June that he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Elzy and her mother spent time as caregivers for Elzy’s grandmother, Mary, from the time she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 1992 until her death in 2001.

Mary Elzy was happy-go-lucky and very mobile and would refer to every coach recruiting her granddaughter as “Pat Summitt,” because that was the one coach’s name she could always recall.

Now she gets a chance to spend more time with people like her grandmother at Best Friends.

“These people are firecrackers. They have more energy and excitement and zest for life than most people walking around,” Elzy said. “I think people should take notice. A lot of people forget they still have feelings, they still have thoughts, they still want to enjoy life _ what they can remember.”

Elzy’s Lady Vols teammate, Kara Lawson, is doing her part, too.

Lawson, a guard for the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun and an ESPN analyst, is running the New York Road Runners Dash to the Finish Line 5K on Saturday, and her husband, Damien Barling, is running the New York City Marathon the next day to raise money for the Alzheimer's Association in honor of Summitt.

Lawson said she didn’t know what kind of response to expect, but by spreading the word through Facebook and Twitter, she and Barling have raised more than $16,000.

She acknowledged she hadn’t thought a lot about dementia and Alzheimer’s until her beloved coach was diagnosed.

“I had a very rough, rough idea of what it was and how it affected people,” Lawson said. “I hadn’t had anyone close to me with the disease, so I didn’t really understand what it was.

“Coach Summitt has never shied away from a challenge, and she’s not scared to put herself out there if it’s something believe will help people. It doesn’t surprise me that the root of her decision to go public is to help other people with it and help inspire confidence and courage.”



Alzheimer's Association:

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