Niagara Gazette

November 7, 2013

KEPPELER: A sweet reminder of lives lived

By Jill Keppeler
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — The small news item landed on my desk about this time last year.

A number of local bakeries had agreed to ice some of their pastries purple for a portion or all of November, it said, in honor of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. Like the far-more-ubiquitous pink for October, the color was meant to raise awareness of a disease that’s affected countless people, both the patients directly involved and the lives of those who care for them.

The campaign was the inspiration of Nancy Swiston of Tonawanda, whose mother, Grace Swiston, fought the disease for 10 years, a long, tough battle for both of them.

It wasn’t Swiston’s only effort to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s, just the newest ... and, perhaps, the sweetest. She also holds the annual Grace Swiston Memorial Fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association, advocates for caregivers in the region, runs a local support group, takes part in the local Alzheimer’s awareness walk and more.

I talked to Swiston, contacted the bakeries (at the time, the three Budwey’s Supermarkets in North Tonawanda, Kenmore and Newfane and Carriage Trade Pastries on Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo) and wrote a story about the campaign last year. And as November 2013 rolled around, I wondered how it was going, and if the purple goodies would make another appearance.

Boy, did they.

“You wouldn’t believe all the bakeries this year,” Swiston said during a phone conversation Wednesday. “There’s a lot of purple out there, a lot of the signs. I’m really excited; it’s just amazing all the stuff we’ve turned purple. It’s great so many places are on board.”

The Budwey’s bakeries and Carriage Trade are participating again, joined by many others. DiCamillo’s bakeries in Niagara Falls, Lewiston and Williamsville are in. So is Sweet Beginnings bakery in the Town of Tonawanda, and Paula’s Donuts in Tonawanda and Clarence. In Medina, Case-Nic Cookies will offer purple treats.

In Buffalo, Caramici’s Dessert Bar & Bakery, Fairy Cakes and Mazurek’s Bakery will all take part, as will Dessert Deli in Williamsville and Dash’s grocery stores throughout the area.

In addition to purple-iced or decorated goodies, each site also posts a sign with information about Alzheimer’s Association Western New York chapter, something that means a great deal to Swiston.

“There are a lot of people who are dealing with this,” she said of the disease. “There are so many and it’s so important, the awareness, for people to know.

“If it just helps one person, if one person reads the sign, it’s worth it. We really started something, I think. Hopefully it will just keep growing and growing.”

The desserts aren’t only things going purple, according to the Alzheimer’s Association and Swiston. In Niagara Falls, the falls will be illuminated in purple at 9 p.m. Nov. 15 to mark the month, as will the Seneca Niagara Casino, Swiston said. The Electric Tower in downtown Buffalo will also go purple several nights, as will the Peace Bridge.

And Swiston is also excited that on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins will be speaking on the floor of the U.S. House Representatives about the importance of Alzheimer’s research.

In a way, she says, it feels like it was meant to be. Today would have marked her mom’s birthday.

“When you think about all the people who are touched by (Alzheimer’s) ... at least they’ll know they’re not alone,” she said. “It would have made me feel better, if I had known.”

And here’s my personal 2 cents.

I’m another of the countless people who’s been affected by Alzheimer’s disease. My paternal grandmother suffered from it. And I will never, ever forget what it’s like to see someone I love go through that — not only my grandma, but my dad, her son. And all of us who loved her.

We weren’t alone. And neither are all the others out there. There’s support. There are people who care.

And that’s why you’ll see purple pastries throughout Western New York this month.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com. Follow her on Twitter @JillKeppeler.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com. Follow her on Twitter @JillKeppeler.