Tennessee Lady Vols Head Coach Emeritus Pat Summitt and her son, Tyler Summitt, were honored on Tuesday at the National Alzheimer's Dinner.
The Summitts received the Alzheimer's Association Sargent and Eunice Shriver Profiles in Dignity Award, "which recognizes an individual, organization or company whose actions have promoted greater understanding of Alzheimer's disease and its effects on diagnosed individuals, families and caregivers."
Summitt's statement at the event embodies the importance of her making this a public issue: far too often, diagnosed individuals and soon-to-be family caregivers have no idea what to expect on the path ahead post-diagnosis.
"I want thank the Alzheimer's Association for honoring Tyler and myself. This award is very, very special," (Pat) Summitt said. "I have to admit when I first received a diagnosis last May, it threw me for a loop. I just didn't know what to think and what to do. Finally Tyler and I came to a decision to fight and to fight publicly."
Summitt's words are similar to those of Kyra Elzy, former Lady Vols point guard and recent Lady Vols assistant coach hire, who helped care for her grandmother who also had Alzheimer's and passed away in 2001.
"It was more just trial and error because we weren't very familiar,'' Elzy said. "Obviously, we had heard of it, but we were not very prepared for what the disease entailed."
Many people struggle with Alzheimer's privately, but Summitt is in a unique position to raise awareness - and funds - that might help prepare those who are faced with the diagnosis in the future or at least make sure they're better informed about what's to come and where they can find help.
Others honored at the dinner are as follows:
Alzheimer's Association Humanitarian Award: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) and Rep. Mike Burgess, M.D., (R-Texas)
Alzheimer's Association Ronald and Nancy Reagan Research Award: Col. Karl E. Friedl, Ph.D.
Alzheimer's Association Advocate Award: Garrett Davis
Click here for more reactions to Summitt stepping down from her position as head coach of the Lady Vols.