Buffalo fights Alzheimer's Disease at annual 5K

Posted at 12:48 PM, Jul 31, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-01 05:28:33-04

Nearly a decade ago Buffalo's longest serving mayor, James "Jimmy" Griffin, lost his battle with an aggressive rare form of dementia. It wasn't Alzheimer's, but the Alzheimer's Association, WNY Chapter, provided information, help and comfort for the mayor's family.

Sunday morning at 10am, people came out to Coca-Cola Field to take part in the annual Run Jimmy Run Charity 5K. The Griffin family has used the mayor's memory and legacy to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer's and related forms of dementia, with this race.

Over the last three years, the race and party have raised more than $48,000 for the Alzheimer's Association, WNY Chapter and become a message of hope.

This year, Sabres great and French Connection winger Rene Robert agreed to join the Run Jimmy Run team this year as honorary starter.

"Alzheimer's is a sad disease, and it's effecting more and more people. I think we should be paying more attention to it than we have in the past," said Robert, who like Griffin has a bronze statue at the waterfront and a family history with dementia. He watched his mother slowly succumb to the disease.

"One of the hardest things I've ever done is putting my mother in a home," said Robert. "I was visiting her in Montreal and sleeping on the couch in her apartment one day when she woke up in the middle of the night hysterical. She had no idea who I was and wanted me out of there. It took a couple of hours for me to calm her down and go back to bed."

The former Sabres right winger is sad over the past and scared for the future for himself and his family.

"I have two kids. I have three grandkids. It frightens me."

His family history, plus 744 games played in the NHL, leave him at greater risk for memory related disease. Robert says he's been tested and shows no sign of disease, "but the doctors say it could develop at any point down the line after 14 years of pounding as an NHL level hockey player."

As someone who continues to keep up on the latest on sports-related brain injury and links to dementia, Robert has valued the research and strides made so far, and was pleased to join up with the cause.

Runners at the race tackle a downtown and waterfront course where the scenery has changed considerably during the four years since the first race was run. A lively and still blossoming waterfront was the dream of Mayor Griffin and hundreds of others through the years, including Robert, who credits Terry and Kim Pegula for caring about Buffalo in the same way Mayor Griffin did.

"Terry saw Buffalo had potential, and saw something no one else did, because he invested a lot of his own money, and has made a huge impact on the city and the community. He's done everything he said he'd do and more." said Robert.

The Run Jimmy Run, a 5K road race and 1 mile walk through downtown Buffalo, was established in 2013.

All proceeds from the Run Jimmy Run go to the Alzheimer's Association of WNY and stay in Buffalo and Western New York.