Volunteers Paint the Town Purple for Alzheimer’s Awareness Month

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- It's a disease affecting more than 47 million people worldwide, and it's the reason you'll likely see a lot of purple throughout town this month.

June is National Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month. The color purple has been designated as the official color for the awareness effort, and it was out in full force Wednesday, thanks to volunteers with the Greater Iowa Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. Organizers say the purpose of this month's efforts include boosting the conversation had about Alzheimer's Disease, as well as raising funds to find a cure.

"My mom had Alzheimer's, and we lost her back in 2002. So, you know, it's a terrible disease that does such bad things," said volunteer, Pam Berg. "You know, she didn't know who we were; I've got four older brothers, and she didn't know any of us in the end. It's really hard to watch somebody go through that, and you know, it's hereditary, so I want to try and get as much awareness for it so we can get a cure for this so I don't have to see my kids go through it."

Berg is one of many dedicating her time Wednesday to handing out purple carnations to passerby during the lunch hour in downtown Des Moines; more than 2,000 carnations were donated to help spread the word about Alzheimer's Disease by Boesen the Florist. Berg says in the two hours she spent handing these flowers out Wednesday, she was surprised to learn of so many Iowans who could relate to her loss.

"Actually, when I'm handing out these carnations, there's so many people that have been affected by this disease, that so many people that I've handed these to, they've been affected as well," she said. "They've known friends or family members, and I've gotten in so many conversations with people about family members they've lost, or that's going through it currently. And we just get talking about our stories, and it's really helpful to be able to talk to people that are going through it, or have gone through it as well. It helps me, and I think it helps them as well."

Carnations are just the beginning: starting Wednesday evening, the Financial Center and Wells Fargo Arena will "go purple" in support of the effort, and they'll stay lit that way throughout the month of June. Casey's General Stores are also turning one of its donuts purple for the same reason. And on June 20, The Longest Day will take place in Des Moines, offering a variety of events to raise both funds and awareness for Alzheimer's Disease research.