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LA Times, Orange County Edition

Tuesday, August 17, 1999

Miles for Niles

Actor David Hyde Pierce from 'Frasier' promotes the 1999 Memory Walk, on Oct. 2, to benefit Alzheimer's Assn.


The event: Luncheon with actor David Hyde Pierce, best known for his role as Niles Crane on the popular "Frasier" sitcom, at a kickoff party for team leaders of the upcoming 1999 Memory Walk. Pierce showed up at the Twin Palms Restaurant in Newport Beach recently to help promote the Oct. 2 walk, a fund-raiser for the Alzheimer's Assn., Orange County Chapter.

Fan club: For Pierce, who makes millions laugh as the neurotic Niles, Alzheimer's has become a deadly serious cause: "My grandfather died of Alzheimer's, and when my dad passed away last year, he was suffering from [Alzheimer's-related] dementia," said the 40-year-old actor, who serves as national chairman of the Memory Walk.

"To me, Alzheimer's is the worst way to go and the cruelest, because long before the person dies their personality and their memories are taken away from them." His goal: To help raise funds to find a cure for the disease, before baby boomers such as himself reach their 60s.

"If we don't find a cure, the number [of Alzheimer's sufferers] will skyrocket," Pierce told the 250 guests, about half of them team captains who will recruit participants for the local Memory Walk. "We're not in a walk, we're in a race against time."

Quote: "The bond between the general public and someone well-known like David enhances the visibility of the disease, because Alzheimer's has no survivors who can speak for themselves," said Beverly Burnett, chairwoman of the Memory Walk.

Stealing memories: Alzheimer's is a fatal disease of the brain that robs its sufferers of their memories, their judgment and their personalities. About 40,000 Orange County residents have the disease, which also takes a heavy toll on caregivers. "The emotional and physical stress on people taking care of Alzheimer's patients is extraordinary," Pierce said. "It's so hard on them because they see their loved ones going farther and farther away." The local Alzheimer's Assn. in Orange provides a variety of services for patients and families, including respite to give caregivers a break from around-the-clock duties.

Bottom line: The Memory Walk is expected to attract more than 6,000 participants and net $400,000 for the local Alzheimer's Assn. (Other walks will take place the same day in 200 communities throughout the United States). Proceeds will be used for Orange County programs such as the Helpline, respite, support groups, patient therapy, visiting volunteers and counseling.

Faces: Linda Scheck, executive director of the local Alzheimer's Assn.; Chuck Conine, board president; Jan Phillips, a 49-year-old Alzheimer's patient; Loren Shook, Linda Lewin and Amy Daugherty. Also, Sharon Bowen, Coleen Aldrich, Doug Schaaf, Joyce Lowder, Kristy Casterline, Kristen Jordan, Elaine Estes and Donna Artukovic.

Mark your calendar: The 1999 Memory Walk will be Oct. 2, at 9 a.m. at the Irvine Spectrum Center. On-site registration is $20 (or $15 in advance) and begins at 7 a.m., followed by an opening ceremony at 8:30 a.m. To participate, call the Memory Walk Hotline at (800) 660-1993 or (714) 283-1111, Ext. 39.

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Posted 9/9/99