After seeing the effect Alzheimer's disease had on her family and how it deprived her of a relationship with her grandfather, an Upper Arlington student has made it her mission to fight the disease.

For the past five years, Reese Moeser, 14, has chased the hope of celebrating the first Alzheimer's survivor by raising awareness and nearly $10,000 for research.

The money, donated to the Alzheimer's Association, has been raised through donations from friends and family and through summer sales of lemonade and snow cones from the yard of her family's Arlington Avenue home.

Among the contributions was a $250 donation made to the Alzheimer's Association in Reese's name after she was named the winner of the 2020 Upper Arlington Optimist Club Service Learning Award.

This is the second year the UA Optimists has honored a student at Jones or Hastings middle school for exemplary community service.

"It helps me feel connected to my grandfather, and I saw firsthand how (Alzheimer's) affected my family," Moeser said. "I want to continue to work so other families don't have to experience that and there can be better treatments."

Moeser's grandfather, Jacinto "Jack" Marchan, who was known by the Spanish designation Abuelo, died in October 2015 at age 85.

An immigrant from Ecuador, Machan was an Air Force veteran and "more American than anyone I know," said Lola Moeser, Reese's mother.

"He taught us always to pay it forward and be kind and always have an open mind."

The family can't pinpoint when Marchan began suffering from the disease, but by the time Reese was born in 2006, symptoms were noticed, Lola said.

By the time Reese was 5, "it was really rough," Lola Moeser said. "That last year (2015), he took a real turn for the worse."

Lola said their own grief, as well the hardship and pains it brought on everyone else close to Marchan, inspired her and her daughter to act.

"We said, 'We cannot sit here and watch this happen,' " Lola said. "Reese and I reached out to everyone we knew and said, 'Please help us beat this disease.' "

Reese and Lola signed up to take part in the 2015 Walk to End Alzheimer's Columbus. It took place a month before Marchan died and is scheduled for Sept. 27 this year.

An email asking friends and family to support Alzheimer's research, as well as the Moesers' own donations, resulted in a $5,000 fundraising campaign that first year.

Reese's summer lemonade and snow cone sales, held each summer since 2016, helped raise the rest.

"We just pick a nice day a couple times a summer," Reese said. "Some of my friends help me, and we have big signs.

"People are really generous, and we make a lot of money."

Lola credited the Upper Arlington community for its generosity, noting some people have driven back after the stand is shut down and donated.

"It is amazing," Lola Moeser said. "We're so thankful for what Reese does every summer, what she contributes and just the generosity of family and friends.

"It's an amazing community. We're very fortunate."

In recognizing Reese, who is an eighth-grader at Jones, the UA Optimists said she has contributed to raising public awareness about the need for Alzheimer's research through her involvement in the Walk to End Alzheimer's.

Reese was chosen by event organizers in 2017 to carry the white flower, which had just been unveiled to represent finding the first Alzheimer's survivor. She's also told her family's story and spoken about the importance of research during the 2017 and 2018 walks.

"She was so dedicated to the walk that when they introduced a new white flower to their flower array representing people's reasons for walking, Reese was asked to give the explanation," said Deborah Tarr, a UA Optimist Club member and a language arts teacher at Jones. "This was especially poignant for Reese because the white flower is meant to represent an Alzheimer's survivor, something that has yet to happen, even for Reese's grandfather.

"Last year, as a seventh-grade student, Reese was given the honor of introducing people, sharing their stories, and all of the different colored flowers and their meanings at the kickoff for the walk. She is passionate about this cause and plans to continue her work to cure Alzheimer's."

Reese said she carries the memory and legacy of her grandfather as she continues each year to take part in the walk and to raise funds.

She's said she was honored to receive the Optimist's Service Learning Award, and she's beginning to brainstorm for new ways to promote Alzheimer's research in case the lemonade stand and walk are quashed by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"It means a lot," Reese said. "I didn't know my grandfather very well personally.

"Doing this helps me feel connected to him in a way I didn't get, and I just feel honored to be part of that."

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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