CFC: Find your reason to donate

BUCKLEY AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- For the last six years, people have approached me during this time of year to ask if I would donate through the Combined Federal Campaign. These people caught my ear in different manners - some sat me down for a lengthy explanation of the CFC, some informed me of the CFC drive during commander's calls, some timidly approached me with small voices barely asking the question.

While I thought the CFC was a great opportunity for others to give to a charity of choice, I admittedly have never donated through the campaign.

I think the 2012 CFC will be different for me.

I decided to be a keyworker for my unit and during the training the local campaign representative shared with those in attendance the many ways the CFC touched her life. When she offered her personal appreciation of the CFC and the charities it liaises with, I wondered if I had my own stories to tell. I won't share her personal stories, but I can share mine.

Imagine a 6-year-old girl running around her grandparents' house, playing as a 6 year old would. Her grandfather grabs her wrist tightly and yells at her, "Who are you, and why are you in my house?" The girl screams for her grandmother.

That was my first experience with Alzheimer's disease, a beast that hinders memory retention, disorients its victims and can ultimately change a person's personality.

Nine years later, I visited my grandmother on a regular Sunday outing with my mother. I was the first to walk into my grandmother's assisted-living apartment. She looked curiously at me and spoke my mother's name as if it was a question. She thought I was my mother. We spent the rest of that visit reviewing family photos.

Since I joined the military in 2006, I spent countless phone conversations with my paternal grandparents answering the same questions over and over. I never tired of restating where I was living and what I was doing, though, because I knew I was lucky to have grandparents who cared. My grandfather has since passed away. As for my grandmother, I still secretly enjoy the genuine surprise and excitement each time I remind her I live close to home.

For all four of my grandparents, stories told of old times waned. Help was needed to remember birthdays, holidays and appointments. For an otherwise healthy person, there is currently not much one's doctor can do. There's no magic pill. No amount of gingko biloba can bring back the memories already lost.

As difficult as it's been to watch this transformation into old age, I can't help but feel hope - especially for future generations. Astonishing medical advances are made worldwide each year. However, funding and budgeting for all things medical or otherwise are always in question.

Isn't this why other people donate to charities and benevolent causes?

A father is diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Animal rights activists find opportunities to make facilities better for abandoned pets. An avid hiker yearns for better trails and more wildlife conservation education.

All these people have reasons to donate through the CFC.

I wonder, if I made contributions to charities that could have advanced care for Alzheimer's patients sooner, might my own grandparents have benefitted from some experimental drug? Would that have given me an opportunity to know them better?

I cannot live in hindsight, but I can donate now to a foundation that focuses on medical advances and care in the hopes that my future children don't have to face the same heart-wrenching experiences.

It's high time that I donate. This year when someone asks if I'm donating to the CFC, I will answer with a hearty, "YES!" Will you?