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Blessings from Burgers

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My sister Tanya, nephew William, and my mother greet my dad as he arrives at Triple T Grill on Alzheimer’s Association’s Longest Day.

I had two goals in mind when I set up Burgers for Bill as a part of the Alzheimer’s Association’s The Longest Day Campaign: (1) to raise some money to battle this brutal disease; and (2) to give friends and family a chance to remember and honor my father.

And I’m happy to say that I believe I achieved both goals. I know that more than $1,200 was donated to the Alzheimer’s Association through the Burgers for Bill team, and I think the effort got the attention of a lot of people who might not have been aware of The Longest Day efforts, which according to the Alzheimer’s Association involved more than 1,100 teams and raised millions of dollars this year.

Stolen Away by Alzheimer’s

Even better, as far as I’m concerned, is how the June 21 event allowed a lot of people to remember and honor my father—and even gave him the opportunity to enjoy some of that attention. Alzheimer’s is such a sneaky disease; it takes a person away little by little, year by year, until only a shell of a once-vibrant person remains—and even that shell is usually tucked away somewhere out of sight from most of the world.IMG_2077

Burgers for Bill created an event that brought my dad back into view for a little bit through the Triple T Grill, the little hamburger restaurant he opened in 1983. As I mentioned in my previous post, Jerry Shepherd, who has owned the grill since he bought it from my dad in 1998, agreed to donate $1 from every Saturday Special sold on June 21 to Burgers for Bill and to collect donations for the Alzheimer’s Association directly. He spread the word through notices in the local newspaper, radio station promos, Facebook notifications, flyers, and a mention on the marquee outside the Triple T.

That kind of effort does not go unnoticed in a town of under 20,000 people. Jerry said the grill got calls about the event all week. People all over town stopped my mother to ask her about the event. Many of them wanted to share memories they had of my father, particularly of the way he always made them feel special when they ate at his little restaurant. My friends and my sister’s friends reminisced about my dad in Facebook posts.

The Triple T Grill was bustling as usual on The Longest Day–actually a little more than usual. Jerry told my mom and sister that they had used more than double the amount of meat by 1 p.m. that day as they would on a normal Saturday. (By the end of the day, the Grill would sell 52 Saturday Specials, receive almost $100 in a cash donation jar, collect a check or two, and match the funds they had raised to make a $300 donation to the Alzheimer’s Association in honor of my father.) I got emails and Facebook notifications from friends around the country letting me know they were eating a burger on Saturday and thinking of Daddy. Every comment, every scrap of a story about him, every donation made to the team was like a ray of sunshine for my family. When you’re walking through the valley of Alzheimer’s there is nothing more comforting and encouraging than knowing your loved one is remembered.

Original Triple T owner Bill Fielder with current owner, Jerry Shepherd.

Original Triple T owner Bill Fielder with current owner, Jerry Shepherd.

 

A Rare Outing

But the most satisfying part of The Longest Day for all of us was the chance to bring my father to the hamburger house he had built–and named after his three daughters, Tammy, Tanya, and Traci. The nursing home where my father now lives arranged to transport him to the Triple T Grill on June 21 so he could join some of the fun himself.

Since I live 1,500 miles away from my parents, I couldn’t join them, but Tanya was there, along with her husband and youngest son. According to them, Daddy was very aware of his surroundings and was thrilled to again be at the Triple T Grill, a place he had not been able to visit in several years. The pictures Tanya sent prove it.

Daddy can't eat real burgers any longer, but he still knows what to do with a good chocolate shake!

Daddy can’t eat real burgers any longer, but he still knows what to do with a good chocolate shake!

My parents with a plaque made for my dad by one of his Triple T employees.

My parents with a plaque made for my dad by one of his Triple T employees.

The Burgers for Bill team didn’t come close to joining the rank of the top fund-raising teams for the Alzheimer’s Association Longest Day event. But it was so deeply meaningful for my family to find a way to make Daddy feel special in a place where he had given so much of his life to making his customers feel special.

So today, I want to say thanks to everyone who donated to Burgers for Bill or publicized the effort and to the Alzheimer’s Association for providing a way to make The Longest Day a memorable one for my dad and millions of people like him.

Thanks especially to Jerry Shepherd and the Triple T Grill for creating such a special way of honoring my dad and to the staff at Senior Care of Brownwood for ensuring Daddy could make the outing. And thanks to the many friends and family who took the time to read about Burgers for Bill, comment on Facebook posts or photos, or just eat a burger in my dad’s honor.

Your generosity, kind words, and demonstrations of support give us strength and comfort.

 

11 Responses so far.

  1. Marla Markman says:

    So glad it went so well Tammy. And I’m glad your dad was able to remember that part of his life. I think that’s awesome that you made this event specific and special to your dad.

  2. Darlene Fielder says:

    Thanks , Tammy , Jerry Shepherd, and rest of TTT workers for making the extra effort to make “Burgers for Bill” day so special. Thanks to the many friends who were interested and donated or ate burgers for Bill in his honor. He loved that business and put lots of effort into it and tried to give his customers the best service and food he possibly could.
    Thanks also to Senior Care for giving him such good care now. I really appreciate their arranging his transportation to TTT, as I can no longer transport him by car since he broke his hip last August.
    I appreciate the interest and participation by so many friends and family. I am so grateful Tanya, her husband, Thomas, and William were able to come and celebrate with us!

  3. Michael Ditmore says:

    Very nicely done, on both counts. It’s especially gratifying to see so many pull together, since every little bit counts to combat this disease and to provide service and support to all those struggling with it.

    • This would not have happened without you — I would have missed the deadline to even register for the event. Thanks for getting me on the right day of the calendar–and for all the help and support.

  4. Tanya Graham says:

    This opportunity was indeed priceless … To see my dad come alive a bit, to smile ,and to give and receive hugs… Better than any hallmark channel movie for certain. I am especially saddened that my children didn’t get to know the man they call Papa, but I know they were blessed with the support from friends and community members that do have vivid recollections of my dad. Thank you all for sharing this special day with us. I don’t think I ever looked into the bleachers without seeing my dad their cheering me on… And I loved the opportunity to return the spotlight to him and sit back and watch.

  5. Elaine Hopkins says:

    What a great idea. I too wish I could have been there. Have many great memories of spending time at your house when we were all little. I remember Uncle Bill making breakfast on Sunday mornings and us always being the first ones to the church building.

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