From Staff Reports

On Monday, May 14, the Unicoi County High School drama department will host a fundraiser event for Alzheimer’s Tennessee at the school. The fundraiser starts at 5 p.m. with a hot dog supper, live music and information provided by several local health care agencies. Vocalists performing include Larry Pate, Gary Amos and Ernie Phillips from the Landmarks Quartet.

At 7 p.m., the advanced drama students will perform “Remember When” a one-act play they created about the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s. The short play tells the story of a family caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s and focuses on how the disease changes the patient as well as family members and caregivers. 

The play is a collection of monologues and short flashback scenes. The cost of the event is $10 for adults and $5 for students and includes the meal, music and play. Tickets can be purchased at the Register of Deeds office in the Unicoi County Courthouse, UCHS main office or at the door on the event day.

“At the beginning of April, I had a conversation with a small group of advanced drama students regarding doing one more performance for the year,” drama instructor Lori Ann Wright said. “Earlier in the school year, we had discussed doing a play surrounding the concept of memory and keys. The original idea was for a family to find a box of keys in their grandmother’s attic and for each key to have an individual story – for each key to represent a special moment in the grandmother’s life.

“I mentioned the keys concept again and gave the students the opportunity to see what they could do with it. A few days later they came to me with the idea of switching a box of keys to a memento box and focusing the story on a family trying to extend the fading memory of a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Several of the students involved had experience with Alzheimer’s or dementia in some way; some had relatives that suffered or passed away from the disease and one student actually lost his grandmother from Alzheimer’s while we were creating the script. I also had a student in our CTE nursing program that connected with the health care perspective as she works daily with patients with memory issues.”

Wright also said that while the students felt a strong connection to the story, they were and still are worried about how their work will be received.

“This is a very difficult and personal subject,” Wright said. “Their goal is to educate the public about Alzheimer’s, honor those patients suffering from the disease and pay tribute to the families caring for their loved ones. I think the story they’ve created does just that, but since no two patients manifest the disease 100 percent the same way and every family deals with it the best they can in their own way, our story may not be an exact replica of an audience member’s experience. The students relied on their research and their own experiences to create the show.”

The students knew they wanted to donate the profit from the show to Alzheimer’s Tennessee and mentioned that to Debbie Tittle when inviting her to the play, according to Wright.

“Mrs. Tittle wanted to help and thus the food and music portion of the event was added,” she added. “Debbie also introduced us to Tracey Kendall Wilson, the regional director of Alzheimer’s Tennessee, and they both came to the school and helped the students gain some perspective on the script. Debbie and Tracey have really just jumped in to help the kids and make the event about education and awareness as well as a fundraiser for Alzheimer’s Tennessee. They have been a wonderful source of information and encouragement. They also helped by arranging the event sponsors and our vocalists.”

Students participating in the event will be Savannah Delffs, Ashley Watson, Kaitlyn Rogers, Chevelle Benton, Lucas Swinehart, Elizabeth Sutphin, Madison Nicholson, Michael Harrington, Garrett Manuel, Brandolyn Thomas, Zach Thompson, Emma Ledford, Eli Macintosh, Carson Moore, Bailey Robinson and Danny Lowery.

“This project means there’s hope,” Delffs said. “We are hoping to bring change and awareness to a disease that affects so many lives. If doing this show impacts just one life, we have done something amazing.”

Wright said the students would like to thank the sponsors, singers and organizations participating in the May 14 event. These include Erwin Healthcare, Center on Aging, Sam’s Club, Larry Pate, Gary Amos, Ernie Phillips, Erwin Home Health, Prevention Coalition and Ballad Health.