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The #4MOM spring training campaign ends, but the journey continues

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The conclusion of #Hits2EndAlz, and how Braden Bishop continues to take action after his mother’s early-onset Alzheimer’s diagnosis

Photo credit to Braden Bishop, speaking with the Foster City Little League after being honored for his work with 4MOM

267 women qualified for the first women’s U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon, held in Olympia, Washington on May 12, 1984. It was a landmark event for women’s running, in preparation for the first U.S. women’s Olympic Marathon team in history. Qualifiers had to have reached a 2:51:16 qualifying time, and ultimately 238 women competed in the trials, cheered on by what The Olympian reported to be 50,000 spectators. Suzy Bishop was one of the 238.

Following the enactment of Title IX, women’s running, particularly women’s distance running, was a small but growing field; in 1980, a mere 10% of marathon finishers were women. Bishop was one of the few, competing in track for the UCLA Bruins and racing in a number of major marathons. After graduation she shifted her attention to the film industry, where she embarked on a long career behind the scenes as the youngest female VP of Production with NBC, the Program Director at the Vancouver Film School, and an instructor at Stanford University. She helped to start shows like Law & Order, and won an Emmy for her work on “Separate But Equal,” which brought the story of US Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall to the silver screen. She was physically and mentally active, balancing her flourishing career with running, hiking, and raising two athletic sons with her husband Randy, himself a former college athlete. By all accounts, one of the best ways to describe the Bishop family was active.

Then the migraines hit. After nearly a decade they could no longer be brushed aside in pursuit of other activities and, following extensive testing, doctors delivered a diagnosis: early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. There is no way to prevent it. There is no way to slow its steady destruction of the brain. After years of action, there was nothing that Bishop or her family could do.

Braden Bishop is defined by his action, but not merely in the way that we all are “defined by our actions.” As the Seattle Mariners’ third round pick in the 2015 draft, the former University of Washington was categorized as a defense-first outfielder, praised for his speed on the base paths and in the outfield. He was a dual sport star athlete throughout high school, and captained the Huskies while majoring in Law, Society, and Justice; he is not accustomed to inaction.

Alzheimer’s disease is, unfortunately, no stranger to speed itself. Its rate of progress varies on a patient-by-patient basis, but according to the Alzheimer’s Association, “on average, a person with Alzheimer’s lives four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors.” Simply put, Alzheimer’s causes nerve and tissue loss throughout the brain, which causes the brain to shrink overall, and which subsequently affects nearly all of the brain’s functions. Shrinkage is severe within the cortex and particularly so within the hippocampus, the areas of the brain dedicated to thinking, planning, remembering, and forming memories.

The sections on treatments and prevention of Alzheimer’s within the Alzheimer’s Association, the Mayo Clinic, the National Institute of Health, and other such research sites are woefully lacking. Scientists and researchers have by and large been flummoxed by this vicious, incurable disease, but there are an increasing number of studies in the works and underway that seek to better understand what causes Alzheimer’s. And this is where Braden Bishop comes in, because Suzy Bishop wouldn’t have accepted inaction as an option, and neither will her son.

Braden launched 4MOM shortly after Suzy Bishop’s diagnosis in 2014, while he was still a student athlete at UW. The first charity event was a powerlifting competition at the school, that raised over $3,000, and as Braden’s profile has grown, so too have the fundraising efforts 4MOM. The charity, partnered with Alzheimer’s Greater Los Angeles, helps the people and families of those affected by Alzheimer’s/dementia, and “strives to improve the lives of those in need with this disease.” Braden has spoken about his desire for 4MOM to educate and raise awareness for Alzheimer’s and, longterm, “to be able to hold classes to educate caregivers and people about how to handle [an Alzheimer’s diagnosis].”

Which brings us to today, and the end of Spring Training, and the subsequent end of #Hits2EndAlz, Braden’s most recent initiative:

Unsurprisingly, the baseball community rallied together in support of #Hits2EndAlz, with players and fans alike pledging money for hits, strikeout, and even, if you’re Andrew Moore’s mother, walks allowed. Scott Servais and the Mariners organization has been especially supportive, with Servais arranging for Braden to speak about 4MOM at a team meeting early-on in Spring Training, and later purchasing t shirts for the team and asking them to each make a donation.

Initially I’d hoped to create a spreadsheet of all the major and minor league players who had pledged money to #Hits2EndAlz but, in the very best way, that proved to be an utter impossibility - there were simply too many players to reasonably track. There is, however, a spreadsheet of everyone from the Lookout Landing/Mariners Twitter community who pledged money to the cause. Our small community alone raised nearly $700, which speaks volumes about the success of the initiative as a whole.

Suzy Bishop was a trailblazer prior to her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and has continued to inspire those around her to action. There may not be a cure for Alzheimer’s (yet), nor is there a way to slow its progress (yet), but Braden Bishop and 4MOM refuse to accept inaction as an option.

If you didn’t take part in this latest campaign, but would still like to support the 4MOM charity, and the people and families of those suffering from Alzheimer’s and/or dementia, you can donate here.