By Sandra Ecklundsecklund@abcnews4.com
CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- Friday night was a night to remember at the Francis Marion Hotel. The ninth annual Forget-Me-Not Ball and Charity Masquerade was held to benefit the Alzheimer's Association.
Sufferers of the disease, their caregivers, families, friends and supporters gathered for an elegant night of fine food, and dancing with a goal of raising $65,000. ABC News 4's Dave Williams was emcee for the event.
An innovative silent auction, sponsored by Agape Senior, kept many partygoers looking at their smartphones not to surf social media, but to keep an eye on their bids. All bidding was done by cellphone and if a person was outbid, a text message informed him or her to get back in the game.
Live auction items included a golf cart, a Sip-and-Soar hot air balloon experience in Napa Valley and stays at luxury locations like the Sanctuary on Kiawah Island. Local chef Brett McKee also donated an in-home cooking class that went for $850.
Sixty percent of the funds will stay in the area, helping the Alzheimer's Association provide services right here in the Lowcountry. They not only help fund research to try and find a cure for the disease, the caregivers of those affected can find support with their respite care services.
One of the more touching parts of the evening came after the excitement of the live auction.
During the "Days of Caring" portion of the evening, bidders raised their numbers to donate days of respite for caregivers. Just $100 can give a caregiver one day of relief from the 24/7 responsibility of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer's. There's also a 24-hour hotline, care consultations, and support groups.
Denise Sweeney is one of those caregivers. Her husband lost his job as general manager of the Times Square Westin at age 55 due to the symptoms of early onset Alzheimer's -- forgetting that he had received important emails, forgetting names and the goings-on in his own office.
Mrs. Sweeney said it took 18 months to find the cause of his forgetfulness because he was so young. Doctors looked at the possibility of sleep apnea because there was no history of the disease in his family.
"I feel like all I can do is fundraise because I can't do anything about the disease," she said. "That's our positive way of giving back and feeling like we have some control. Silver linings. That's what it's all about."
The Sweeneys have found the support they need through the Association, making friends who are going through the same things and finding their silver linings.
"I'm trying very hard to do whatever he wants to do and if it means worrying about it (the disease) a year from now in terms of 'what are we going to do now' then that's what it means," she said. "The key is to remember who they were and not who they are becoming. You have to make the best out of it because you can't do anything about it."
The Alzheimer's Association is doing their best to do something about it. On top of the national "My Brain Matters" campaign, the Lowcountry branch has taken on their own initiative: "We're the Brains Behind Saving Yours."
"We're doing a lot of educational workshops to teach the 10 signs (of Alzheimer's)," said Kim Almstedt, Director of Development for the Lowcountry and Coastal Regions. "'Early Detection Matters,' 'The Basics of Alzheimer's,' and 'Conversations with Dementia.' Those are the top three educational workshops that we're offering in the community."
To find out more about the research and advancements in finding a cure for Alzheimer's, click here.
As glamorous as the Forget-Me-Not Ball was, it's just the beginning. Their biggest fundraiser, the Walk to End Alzheimer's, is scheduled for September at the Charleston Harbor Resort and Marina.
To find out more about upcoming events and how you can help, visit their website www.alz.org/sc. You can also call their 24-hour hotline at 1-800-272-3900.