“My mom advocated for me as a gay man, now it’s my turn to advocate for her”: Orlando man joins Walk to End Alzheimer’s for his mother

By : Lora Korpar
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ABOVE: Garden pinwheels advertising the upcoming Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

ORLANDO | David Shaw came out to his parents in 2001. To his relief, his mother was loving and fiercely accepting of him as a gay man, changing her life to advocate for her son’s acceptance. Now Shaw says it is his turn.

Carol Shaw was a business manager at her Alabama town’s local church counseling clinic. After her coworkers found out about her son’s sexuality, they treated her differently, eventually driving her away from her job.

She went on to become the co-leader of the Montgomery, Alabama chapter of PFLAG — an organization with chapters across the US dedicated to creating environments where LGBTQ people are accepted and their loved ones are educated about the community.

She dedicated herself to the cause, even traveling to Washington D.C. to lobby for equality.

“That was really just an amazing thing to do, especially for a mom so mild-mannered and who doesn’t ever toot her own horn,” David Shaw says. “It’s just mind-blowing that she did that in Alabama.”

In July 2018, Carol Shaw was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, which progressively destroys one’s memory and other cognitive functions. Though there is a lot of research being done on the disease, there is no cure.

Calling it “both gut and heart-wrenching,” David Shaw knew that he had to follow in his mother’s footsteps and make something positive out of a bad situation.

David Shaw and his family have stepped into the role of caregivers for his mother as she undergoes clinical trials. He is also dedicated to advocating for his mother by joining the Walk to End Alzheimer’s.

“I’m just getting myself out there even if it’s uncomfortable,” he says. “I’m still doing it for her because I want to raise awareness and she’s given the incredible gift of giving herself to humanity and science by allowing herself to go through these clinical trials.”

Both David Shaw and Usha Tewari, an Alzheimer’s Association Ambassador, agree that one of the most important parts of the walk will be to raise awareness about the disease.

“At a grassroots level, you need to build an awareness and educate the community whether it’s your family, your friends, your coworkers,” Tewari says. “Every day that I bring up the word ‘Alzheimer’s,’ that circle is growing and awareness is growing as well.”

In addition to awareness, they are also advocating for more education on the disease and on what kind of help is available to people dealing with the disease and their caregivers.

“We do need to make sure that people know there are resources out there,” David Shaw says. “You cannot take all of this on on your own. You just can’t.”

The Walk to End Alzheimer’s will take place on Oct. 5 at Lake Eola Park in Orlando. There will be an opening ceremony at 9 a.m. then the walk will begin at 9:30.

“It is a healthcare tsunami and we have to start somewhere,” Tewari says. “A lot of people might not have a connection at the moment, but the way it’s growing and spreading, we must use our voice in the community to keep the message going.”

For more information and to find details on how to join the walk, go to ACT.ALZ.org.

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