Pat Summitt: Redefining Heroism in the Face of Alzheimer’s

Those of you who know me well, know that I am an avid University of Georgia fan (or perhaps fanatic). I arrive at football games at 6 a.m. to set up my tent. I will stand in the 100-degree sun, downpours, 90,000-person adversarial crowds and whatever else is thrown at me to support the Red & Black.

As any true Bulldog should, I refuse to wear or own anything orange. Working for a Syracuse company owned and dominated by graduates thereof, this is not an easy feat. Kyle, our Brand Development Specialist, continually tries to present me with orange apparel, cards and business accessories I will neither use nor touch.   So, until the untimely death of Patricia Summitt earlier this week, it was hard to imagine any circumstance under which I would say anything positive about any orange team, much less our bitter rival, the Big Orange of Tennessee.

2016-06-28-Remembering-Pat-Summitt-001-681x383But Coach Pat Summitt may have softened my perspective on that. I have watched Coach Summitt many times from the stands as she and her orange-clad teams continually dominated women’s college basketball. She appeared loud and strong, and seemed to tower with confidence over a group of women all averaging 6 feet tall and half her age.

However, I only once had the privilege of meeting Pat Summitt in person – at the 2012 National Alzheimer’s Association dinner, where she was being honored for her work for the association. There, she stayed close behind her son the entire night as he guided her through the room. When they took the stage, he held her hand, took her speech and read it. She stood silent with a look of slight discomfort and confusion. Yet there she stood on stage in Washington D.C. in front of advocates, celebrities and Congress members from every state. For me, in that moment, Patricia Summitt of Clarksville, Tennessee redefined bravery and heroism.

Coach Summitt made a conscious choice after her diagnosis to champion Alzheimer’s awareness. As she struggled with early onset and discovered the lack of information and research on the subject, it is said that she made her son promise to help her bring the awareness to the cause necessary to make change. She and her son Tyler did just that until the day she left us. She taught us that Alzheimer’s does not discriminate based on physical fitness level, race, gender, age or wealth. She showed the world that even the strongest among us with the best resources will buckle to this disease if we do not continue to fight together for a cure.  

Pat Summitt once said, “It is what it is, but it will be what you make it.” Through her powerful example, Coach Summitt put Alzheimer’s on a national stage and led a growing team of advocates, caregivers, families and sufferers across our country to fight for funding, research and reform. In my mind, that will always be her greatest coaching feat. Therefore, in honor of Patricia Summitt, I will say (just this one time), GO BIG ORANGE!

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Kimberly Brannon, Legal-Technical & Software Trainer

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