New York, NY (June 15, 2015) — “An incredible man who touched the lives of every person he met,” is how Gunnar Tyler Henning, 18, of Washington, N.J., described his grandfather “Pop,” in his essay, “Only One Enemy.” Henning’s poignant tribute, which revealed how Alzheimer’s disease ravaged his grandfather and his family—yet at the same time, forged strength and closeness among them—earned him the $5,000 grand prize in this year’s Alzheimer’s Foundation of America Teens for Alzheimer’s Awareness college scholarship competition.
“He had absolutely no enemies but the one raging inside of him, a merciless disease that eroded a good man’s soul to the point of being unrecognizable,” Henning recalled.
Shelby Rose Kwast, 18, of Muskegon, Mich., claimed second prize of $2,500 for her poem “Gone Are The Days,” a loving homage to her grandmother. Julianne Johnson, 17, of Bermuda Dunes, Calif., was awarded third prize and $1,000, for “I Love You All The Way to Heaven,” a moving account of growing up with a mother who had young-onset Alzheimer’s disease.
This year, AFA awarded a total of $15,000 in scholarships to college-bound students whose essays illustrated the impact of Alzheimer’s disease on their lives. Gabrielle Griffin, 17, of Ottawa, Ontario, and Alexandra Yule, 18, of Bayside, N.Y., received $750 honorable mention prizes. In addition, Allyson Wikstrom, 18, of Orland Park, Ill.; Ryan MacCallum, 18, of Cape Coral, Fla.; Riley Clarkson, 18 of Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Gabrielle LePenske, 18, of Elgin, Ill.; Whitney Victory, 17, of Magnolia, Del.; Katherine Precourt, 17, of Washington, D.C.; Holly Houston, 18, of Greenville, S.C.; Marissa Works, 18, of Hermitage, Pa.; Samuel MacDuffie, 18, of Cape Elizabeth, Maine; and Anna Wunderlich, 18, of Lakeland, Fla., each received honorable mention prizes of $500. The foundation has awarded the college scholarships annually since 2009.
“These incredible young caregivers touched our hearts with their personal stories,” said Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., AFA’s president and chief executive officer. “While each scenario was unique, a common thread of love and perseverance resonated through them all. We applaud these young leaders for their courage and their passion in raising awareness of this devastating illness. We wish them much success as they embark on their college careers.”
The college scholarship is just one of the many features of the Young Leaders of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, which aims to educate and engage teens and college students, many of whom are caregivers themselves. Students also have an opportunity to connect with peers by forming chapters in their neighborhoods or participating in an online support community.
For more information and to read the winning scholarship essays, visit www.youngleadersofafa.org.
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America, based in New York, is a national nonprofit organization that unites more than 1,900 member organizations nationwide with the goal of providing optimal care and services to individuals confronting dementia, and to their caregivers and families. Its services include a toll-free helpline staffed by licensed social workers, educational materials, a free quarterly magazine for caregivers, and professional training. For more information about AFA, call toll-free 866-232-8484, visit www.alzfdn.org, follow us on Twitter, or connect with us on Facebook.