Purple Olympics

Fran Gray, center, and her team have been working hard to prepare the inaugural Purple Olympics on Saturday, May 11, at Tullahoma High School’s football stadium. The event will be an all-ages fun fair, including live music, free food, door prizes and “brain games.” From left are Cat Murray, Jon and Fran Gray, Bill Baxter and Tom Rideout, who make up the Purple Olympics coordinating team. For more information about the Purple Olympics, contact Fran at 931-434-2348.

In an effort to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s research in the state, Alzheimer’s Tennessee is hosting the inaugural Purple Olympics in Tullahoma on Saturday, May 11, at Tullahoma High School.

According to Regional Coordinator Fran Gray, the Purple Olympics will be a “fun morning” full of games and activities that will raise awareness of all the services Alzheimer’s Tennessee has to offer. It will also serve as a celebration of the families of those living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias.

“We’re going to have an event at Tullahoma High School at the football field and track beginning at 9 o’clock for registration,” Gray said.

There will be live music, provided by Cat Murray, of McMurr’s, as well as tons of activities for all ages, Gray said.

The morning will consist of an opening parade ceremony complete with a torch lighting in true Olympic fashion, Gray said, before people break into teams to participate in “brain games.”

A small brass ensemble from the Tullahoma High School Band will even be on hand to play the Olympic fanfare, Gray added.

 “It’s just a lot of fun” Gray said of the event.

When asked why she chose an event like Purple Olympics for Alzheimer’s Tennessee, Gray said she wanted to set her event apart from other Alzheimer’s awareness and fundraising events.

“We need to fundraise because we provide free services here in the community and the whole south central area … and we wanted to have a unique event so people would understand that we are a different organization from others who have been here in the past,” she said.

Many organizations, including those who raise awareness for Alzheimer’s hold walks or 5Ks, but Gray wanted to do something that was less serious and more fun for the whole family.

“We knew that a lot of organizations have walks, and we wanted to do something that set us apart,” she said.


Bolstering brawny brains

According to one of the coordinators of the event, Bill Baxter, one of the “brain games” will be a trivia competition.

“We’re doing trivia as a brain game to correlate with our work around Alzheimer’s,” Baxter said. “It’ll be the first time we’ve attempted a massive trivia [game].”

Teams will be separated in the stands of Wilkins Stadium, Baxter said, and they will answer questions based on the work of the organization in order to win points and possibly take home an award.

Another game, according to Jon Gray, will involve putting maps back together in the jigsaw puzzle competition.

“The State of Tennessee has sent Fran some maps that we’re going to … turn into puzzles,” he said. “We’re going to see who gets the puzzle together the quickest.”

Jon also hinted at a wheelchair relay race, keeping some details secret until the event.

All the games are designed to help bolster cognitive function in those who participate, including thinking processes and motor skills, according to Gray.

Though they have a solemn purpose, the games are as silly and light-hearted as adult tricycle races and jigsaw puzzle competitions, she added.

 “We know that the more active our brains and bodies can stay, the healthier we’re going to be,” she said.


All-ages event

The morning may be dedicated to supporting Alzheimer’s Tennessee and raising funds for its services, but Gray stressed that anyone is welcome to come over to the high school and enjoy the fun.

In addition to the “brain games,” Gray said there will be a bounty of kid-friendly activities for small children to enjoy.

“We’re going to have other games for children … where they can win prizes,” she said. “There’s activities for all ages.”


Team registration

According to Gray, registration is currently live and will continue through the morning of the event.

While teams can register that morning, she encouraged anyone looking to put a team together early to do so before a kickoff lunch next Tuesday, April 2.

“We’re having a kickoff lunch at First Christian Church in the annex, and that’ll be at 11:30 a.m.,” Gray said. Pre-registered teams will need to send a representative to the luncheon, she added.

All participants who pre-register prior to April 26 and raise at least $50 will also receive an Alzheimer’s Tennessee T-shirt to wear to the event.

Teams can be up to eight people, Gray said, though smaller teams are absolutely welcome to register.

“[There’s] a maximum of eight, but otherwise it can be any number [of people],” she said.

Teams can pick up registration forms at the Alzheimer’s Tennessee office at 207 N. Jackson St. or register online at www.alztennessee.org/purpleolympics.

For more information on how to help sponsor the Purple Olympics, contact Fran Gray. Gray can be reached by phone at 931-434-2348 or by email at fran.gray@alztnorg.


About Alzheimer’s Tennessee

Alzheimer’s Tennessee, Inc. provides free services to those with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias, as well as a number of family support services in the state of Tennessee, according to its website.

The group began in 1983 in East Tennessee when a small group of families began informally meeting to “understand and cope with the ravaging effects of Alzheimer’s disease.”

Though it was once affiliated with the National Alzheimer’s Association, it has been a fully independent organization since August 2011.

Since returning to its independent status, Alzheimer’s Tennessee has endeavored to keep all funds raised by the organization with families in the state – none of the money raised through Alzheimer’s Tennessee goes anywhere other than to Tennessee families dealing with the effects of the disease, according to board president Mary Lyn Goodman.

“We want to guarantee those dollars … will directly benefit local families as well as the most promising research,” Goodman said.

For more information about Alzheimer’s Tennessee, visit alztennessee.org.

Erin McCullough may be reached at emccullough@tullahomanews.com.