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More than five million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, according to the latest data from the Alzheimer's Association. Some 16 million family members and friends provide care for the victims of Alzheimer and other types of dementia in the U.S. Another sobering fact is that someone in the U.S. develops Alzheimer's disease every 66 seconds.

The Mountain Jammers are a close-knit group of family and friends who have joined forces to make and sell jam to raise funds to fight Alzheimer's. Their fundraiser is part of the “The Longest Day” program of the Alzheimer’s Association with the goal of not only raising funds but also awareness of the disease. The event always occurs on the date of the summer solstice, which is June 20 this year.

Susie Gilliam, the captain of the Mountain Jammers team, and her family are no strangers to the ravages of Alzheimer's, having a family history of the disease. Their mother, Pauline Fowler, died in 2001 after a 15-year battle with the mind-robbing disease.

“My sister in South Dakota is active in fundraising for Alzheimer's research,” Susie Gilliam said.  “She is coordinating a golf tournament for this year’s 'Longest Day' event and encouraged me to start a group locally. The family members are all from Appalachian backgrounds, so we decided to make jam and sell it. Our motto is 'Jamming for a Cure for Alzheimer's.'”

“The Longest Day” fundraising event starts at sunrise and ends at sunset, a time period that symbolizes the challenging journey that Alzheimer's victims and their caregivers must deal with daily.

“I along with six siblings helped to take care of our mother," Gilliam said. "She died as a direct cause of it.”

The Mountain Jammers are a 14-member team.  The group has already made 400 jars of jams and jellies, with more to come. It makes it in three Swannanoa kitchens.  The team plans to have strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, peach, cherry, grape, apple butter and blueberry jams for sale.  The jams will be sold  June 20 and the money donated to the Alzheimer’s Association to continue research.

They'll sell the jams and jellies at 215 and 225 Wilson Cove Road in the Buckeye Cove area of Swannanoa. Sales begin at 10 a.m., with a suggested donation of $5 for a half pint, $6.50 for a 12-ounce jar and $8 for a pint.  The Mountain Jammers could use  donations of jars, sugar and fresh or frozen fruit.

“Every time the 'Mountain Jammers' get together. it feels like Christmas,” Gilliam said.  “We are all close and feel strongly about fighting Alzheimer’s disease. We have been blessed with many donations already. If you don’t eat jam or jelly, feel free to make a monetary donation.”

For more “The Longest Day” fundraiser or to participate with the Mountain Jammers team, call Gilliam at 669-7876 or 779-7876.

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