Spotlight on hidden epidemic

LAST month, Tamworth mum Genevieve Gittoes inspired thousands by tackling the gruelling City2Surf to highlight the hidden epidemic of dementia.

Next month, she will take on a fresh challenge, with the help of a group of kind-hearted colleagues.

RIDING HIGH: Tamworth's Memory Riders team – back from left, Stuart Watts and Tammy McCusker; middle, Genevieve Gittoes and Vicki Cooper and front’ Dominique Gittoes and Janine Power – will tackle next month’s Pedal the Peel challenge to raise funds for dementia research and support. Photo: Gareth Gardner 030914GGF01

RIDING HIGH: Tamworth's Memory Riders team – back from left, Stuart Watts and Tammy McCusker; middle, Genevieve Gittoes and Vicki Cooper and front’ Dominique Gittoes and Janine Power – will tackle next month’s Pedal the Peel challenge to raise funds for dementia research and support. Photo: Gareth Gardner 030914GGF01

A team from Professionals Jackson Rural Tamworth will line up for Pedal the Peel, a whole of community cycling event aimed at raising more than $20,000 for local charities.

Mrs Gittoes’ one-woman crusade to heighten awareness about dementia captured the attention of Pedal the Peel organisers, who vowed to donate a percentage of the proceeds to Alzheimer’s Australia.

The Memory Riders were born and, so far, 12 of Mrs Gittoes’ colleagues have agreed to saddle up for the ride, which includes four courses – from a leisurely 15km escorted course to a 115km long course – and is being run by the Rotary Club of First Light.

“Dementia is so prevalent and so indiscriminate ... there’s just no consistency with who it strikes,” Mrs Gittoes said.

“They’re no closer to finding a cure and I want to raise as much money as possible to help with research and support.”

Mrs Gittoes was moved to help after her closest childhood friend was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s last year at just 53.

There are close to 1200 people in Tamworth living with dementia, a figure expected to triple by 2050.

An estimated 1.2 million Australians are caring for someone with dementia, a term used to describe the symptoms of a large group of illnesses which cause a progressive decline in a person’s functioning. 

“We are just overwhelmed with the energy and response from the Tamworth region and we are committed to designating funds there,” Alzheimer’s Australia fundraising organiser Megan Thomas said.

To enter, volunteer or donate to Pedal The Peel, visit www.pedalthepeel.org.au

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