Lake Norman & Mooresville

Cruising for a cause

Imagine waking up one day and not remembering how to tell time or even how to write a simple sentence.

Such became the reality for the late Jim Foley, a Denver resident diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease several years before his death, said his widow, Priscilla Foley.

"It's a terrible disease because they lose their minds but they still keep living," she said of her late husband of 40 years. "It's devastating to watch your loved one slowly lose their mind."

Alzheimer's is an incurable, degenerative and terminal disease that affects one's cognitive and functional skills.

Huntersville resident Dick Lunney said he has seen the emotional toll that Alzheimer's can take on families, including the Foleys. This past fall, he decided to do something to help.

The British car aficionado is traveling across country in his 1978 MGB sports car to raise funds and awareness about Alzheimer's disease.

His fundraiser, Rallye for Research, corresponds with the Rallye to Reno, in which MG car owners will gather in Reno June 13-17 for a car show.

The Rallye to Reno kicked off in Salisbury, Md., on June 3 and ended in Reno, Nev., on June 12. Lunney's trip lasts through June 18. "It's not so much about the money you raise but the awareness you provide about that charity need," said Lunney.

Salisbury resident David Brown said he hopes Lunney's fundraiser will help find a cure for Alzheimer's.

Brown's 52-year-old friend was diagnosed with Alzheimer's a couple of years ago. Once known as being a car aficionado with a talent for fixing cars, the friend now resides in a nursing home and struggles with basic motor skills.

"His mind's gone. He's like a robot now," said Brown. "It was a pretty big shock. It's been especially difficult because he has a 13-year-old son."

Priscilla Foley said while there's historically been a stigma attached to Alzheimer's disease, she expects that to change as more baby boomers are diagnosed with the degenerative disease.

Right now, about 5.4 million Americans have Alzheimer's, which is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Alzheimer's Association.

"There's going to be more awareness and backing for help to find a way to alleviate the disease," Foley said. "What Dick is doing is helping tremendously in making that awareness more widespread."