Local teen, Austin Drevs, beating Alzheimer’s with music
By Lee Reinsch
BROWN COUNTY – When Austin Drevs was 8, his family found out his dad, Scott, had early-onset dementia.
Scott Drevs was in his 40s then and the news turned the family upside down.
Austin, the youngest of three boys, said he took it hard, although the diagnosis was difficult to comprehend for a grade-schooler.“I was confused,” Austin, now 18, said. “I thought he was insane.”
The enormity of it didn’t fully sink in for several years.
Yet he and his dad have remained close.
“He’s doing really well,” he said. “Sometimes he’ll tell the same story 5 minutes after he first told it, but he’s outlasting his prognosis.”
Drevs, a senior at Denmark High School, is heading off to the Marines in San Diego in a few months.
Before he leaves, he wants to do something special to honor his dad, who also served in the Marines.
In conjunction with the Alzheimer’s Association’s second-largest fundraising event, The Longest Day, Drevs is hosting a music benefit for the association, in honor of his dad.
“Music has always been a big thing for my dad and I,” Austin said. “The idea of writing music actually came about after my dad got me into poetry. The impact of the written word is so powerful. In high school my dad and I wrote a poetry reading together – my dad talking about his struggle with dementia and me talking about life after dementia hits. I performed the piece at State Forensics and got first place. After that, I started writing my own music.”
His event in May, called A Music Beat to Beat Alzheimer’s, features 12 hours of live performances by area musicians, along with raffles, prizes and a silent auction.
“I consider myself a hip-hop artist and write music over a beat,” Austin said. “I decided to host an event around music to raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association. I’ve read many things about how people with Alzheimer’s can understand music and connect to it. I decided music is what would make an impact.”
The Alzheimer’s Association’s Longest Day is a fundraising initiative whose name stems from its origins as a one-day event held on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year.
Its motto is “The day with the most light is the day we fight.”
“When it first started out there was a push to have everybody hold it on or near the summer solstice, but the whole idea is that it’s a DIY (do-it-yourself) fundraiser, so it really doesn’t matter when it’s held,” said Cari Josephson, manager of The Longest Day, Wisconsin chapter.
Thousands of Longest Day events and activities across the country are held throughout the year, even when days are shorter.
People host skiing, hockey and other winter events.
Events can range from run/walks to rummage sales.
“It opens up a lot of creativity,” Josephson said.
She said it also gives attendees the chance to participate in more than one event in a given year.
“We work with individuals and businesses in the community who are interested in doing their own event, and they get to do whatever they want,” Josephson said.
“Some do Facebook fundraisers, kids’ lemonade stands, game nights, garage sales, golf outings, backyard barbecues. As long as it’s legal, they can do what they want.”
The fundraiser probably most associated with the Alzheimer’s Association is its Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which in Wisconsin takes place in 25 locations around the state.
“The walk is very special, and it’s nice to have a big community event where everyone comes together, but The Longest Day you can really customize it and make it your own,” Josephson said. “It’s a nice way to honor a loved one.”
The Alzheimer’s Association estimates that 6 million people over age 65 in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. In Wisconsin, the number is about 120,000 people.
In 2017, about 13 out of every 10,000 people between the ages of 30 and 64 received a diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s or other dementias, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield.
More information about the Alzheimer’s Association can be found at alz.org.
More information about other Longest Day events, as well as how to host one, can be found by CLICKING HERE.
The association offers a free 24-hour resource and helpline for anyone with questions, from those recently diagnosed to caregivers, at 1-800-272-3900.
The Longest Day: A Music Beat to Beat Alzheimer’s event will from noon to 11:55 p.m. Saturday, May 8, at the Watering Hole, 2107 Velp Ave.
Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at the door.
More information is on Austin’s Longest Day Facebook page, fb.me/e/24CNwWxLR.