SUN CITY CENTER — For years, Alzheimer's Disease was an unspoken reality for the Ellen Kleinschmidt and her family.
She knew her mother had the disease, but they never used the word until they took her to the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer's Institute last summer.
"We knew the results before the doctor sat the three of us down and said, 'Virginia, you've got Alzheimer's,'" Kleinschmidt explained. "Her Alzheimer's has been progressing slowly, but her memory is a thing of the past … so I get to tell her my great stories over and over and every time it's new news to her."
Personally touched by the disease, Kleinschmidt has organized Actors Against Alzheimer's and will stage a one-night only concert. Unforgettable will be presented at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 19 at the Sun City Center United Methodist Church, 1210 Del Webb Blvd. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.
The benefit will feature Kleinschmidt, her son Brian, and a number of other local acting favorites, including Barbara VanEycken, Alex Council, Kathy Straub, Michael Boyer and Alex Burns. Dan Tackitt and Fran Eckert will host.
Freedom Plaza business development director Connie Lesko, whose parents suffered from Alzheimer's, will present information about the impact Alzheimer's had own her family. The event also will include a silent auction and the sale of a CD Kleinschmidt has produced featuring her favorite songs. All proceeds will go to the Alzheimer's Association.
Kleinschmidt feels blessed that the progression of the disease has been slow with her mother. Her father serves as a terrific caregiver and they lead a simple life as Freedom Plaza residents.
A Parade magazine ad that read in part, "My brain has Alzheimer's but it still has hope," served as inspiration for Kleinschmidt.
"Seriously, that ad changed the way I look at Alzheimer's and my mom," Kleinschmidt said. "I hope that when my granddaughter, Gracie, who is 5, is grown up, Alzheimer's will be a disease last is long gone and forgotten."
For further information contact Ellen Kleinschmidt at [email protected] or call (813) 789-8271.
Ernest Hooper, Times staff writer