Parents Launch Prolific Fundraising Effort After Daughter's Alzheimer's Diagnosis

Carrie Hodousek
January 21, 2020 - 4:24 pm

The KCBS Difference Makers is a weekly feature by reporter Carrie Hodousek that tells the stories of ordinary people working to bring positive change in their community. 

A San Ramon couple is working to raise money to end Alzheimer’s after an unexpected diagnosis in the family.

Jim and Denys Voorhees said their daughter Stacey was diagnosed with younger-onset Alzheimer’s in 2017 at the age of 40. The news came as a shock because Stacey was so young.

Jim and Denys Vorhees raise money for Alzheimer's research after a surprising diagnosis in their family
Carrie Hodousek/KCBS

“She kept misplacing things. She might ask you the same questions just seconds apart. We knew something was wrong, we just didn’t know what it was,” Jim Voorhees said.

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The couple responded to their heartache by forming “Team Stacey” for the East Bay Walk to End Alzheimer’s. They are now the top fundraising team and have collected more than $50,000 so far.

“We just kept asking Stacey’s friends, our friends and co-workers. People really wanted to get on board, so we had the largest friends and family team that first year,” said Denys Voorhees.

Their latest effort to raise funds came in December during a Macy’s fashion show hosted by the Alzheimer’s Association. Jim Voorhees participated, modeling a gray suit and purple tie on the runway.

“It’s hard to say no,” he said. “I thought ‘sure, I can do this.'”

Jim and Denys Vorhees raise money for Alzheimer's research after a surprising diagnosis in their family
Carrie Hodousek/KCBS

Organizers say the Voorhees' relentless energy is bringing hope to more than 460,000 people in the Bay Area and even more across the country who are directly impacted by Alzheimer’s.

“It’s just incredible the movement that they’ve made,” said Brittany Enos-Harrit with the Alzheimer’s Association, Northern California and Northern Nevada. “Recruiting people from across state lines, people fly out to come to the Walk to End Alzheimer’s here in San Ramon every October to support Stacey, Jim and Denys.”

At the end of the walk teams hold different colored flowers, and each color represents a different meaning. Jim and Denys are hoping to raise a white flower some day.

“That signifies the first person cured,” Jim said.

“That’s the goal,” Denys added. “Find the white flower.”

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misspelled the family's last name. It is Voorhees. We regret the error.