SCOTTSBLUFF — Every 65 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer’s. By 2050, it is projected to be every 33 seconds. One local organization is raising awareness to the disease by providing a free film and a raffle.

The disease doesn’t just affect “old” people. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 200,000 people under age 65 have early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. The disease affects the entire family. That’s why the members of the Scottsbluff Caregiver’s Support Group, Alzheimer’s Association are bringing the disease to the public’s attention with their “Art for Alzheimer’s” fundraiser.

The group is also hosting a movie night at the Midwest Theater on June 19. Leticia Ramirez Kanno arranged for the movie, “Still Alice,” to be presented while other members sought donations to cover the costs of hosting the movie.

“We chose ‘Still Alice’ because it speaks specifically to Alzheimer’s without mentioning it,” said Jerry Lewis, co-organizer.

It’s a newer movie and organizers felt it was a better choice than “The Notebook.” Most people think the movie is a romance and miss that it is about Alzheimer’s. Kanno has spoken to several random people who didn’t understand what the movie was about

“It is a beautiful movie,” Kanno said. “They say it’s a great romance, but they miss the point.”

The movie is a new addition to the work done by the group. They wanted to find a way to raise awareness and educate the community about the disease.

“Once you come in contact with it, you wish there was something you could do to prevent it,” Lewis said. “It’s not so painful for the patient, but it’s devastating and painful for the family.”

Lewis said “Still Alice,” based on the book by the same name, never mentions Alzheimer’s.

“Although Alice is going through these changes, she’s still Alice,” Lewis said. “That’s hard to remember when you’re dealing with an Alzheimer’s patient.”

Local Alzheimer’s groups in the Panhandle have the information caregivers need. Lewis said she doesn’t care which group you attend, but people should know they are there to help.

“Not everyone knows how to access resources,” Lewis said. “The movie and raffle is another attempt to spread the word.”

Co-organizer Blanche Betancur said the idea came to be after being concerned about the caregiver of the person with Alzheimer’s. Sometimes family members and caregivers do not know what the symptoms mean or what they can do about them.

“I didn’t know when I saw them in my husband,” Betancur said. “It was hard to know what to expect.”

Betancur said she and other members of the group are better equipped now to help others so they can understand the disease a little bit more.

“I wish I had known what was coming,” Betancur said. “I thought he was just being obnoxious and stubborn.”

Lewis said there is so much to learn about the disease that it is daunting.

“Just the cost of taking care of someone with this is overwhelming,” Lewis said.

Betancur’s son, Ed, has donated two of his oil paintings to the raffle. Anton Koncaba made sleeping mats and a sunflower afghan. The centerpiece of this year’s fundraising campaign is a hand-pieced quilt of butterflies by an anonymous donor. Two watercolors, created by local artist Kevin Burkey, will also be auctioned.

Raffle tickets are $1 each or six for $5 and can be purchased from now until the showing of “Still Alice.” Drawing for the raffle will be held July 3 during the next caregiver’s meeting. All funds raised will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association to find a cure in the name of Jim Lewis, Jerry’s husband, who recently died.

Anyone attending their local Runza on June 21, the longest day, and purchases a $1 ice cream cone will have 50 cents donated toward Alzheimer’s.

The women are hopeful there will be a cure one day. In the meantime, they invite everyone to see the movie, buy a raffle ticket and be informed.

“We all have to worry about this because none of us really know who will get it,” Lewis said.

The Scottsbluff Caregivers Support Group is a safe place where caregivers and loved ones of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or other dementias can get together for support and education on the disease process. They meet the first Wednesday of each month from 6:15-7:15 p.m., at the Western Nebraska Veterans Home. For more information, contact Erin Kontogiannis at 203-606-5524 or Leticia Kanno at 308-632-0325.

For more information about Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, contact the Alzheimer’s Association at 1-800-272-3900 or at

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