Ridgeland firefighter, 5K race support Alzheimer's awareness
Published on Thursday, April 19, 2018
By: Karen Bascom and Ruth Cummins
On May 3, Quinton Robertson will run a 5K not in shorts and tennis shoes, but instead wearing his 60-pound firefighter gear and heavy boots.
It’s his choice to sweat, ache and struggle to breathe before the conclusion of the third annual Brawn and Bubbles 5K Run for the Brain at Reservoir Pointe in Ridgeland. He’s doing it to honor the memory of his dad, Jerry Robertson, who died of Alzheimer’s disease four years ago on April 18.
He’s doing it to honor others who suffer from the disease, and to honor all those who, like him, are their caregivers. Alzheimer’s is a brutal disease for those who have it and for their caregivers. Those stricken suffer from dementia, memory loss and cognitive impairment.
“I speak for my mother as well as myself,” said Robertson, a Ridgeland resident who works at Reservoir Fire Station 3 on Church Road in Brandon. “We truly understand what it’s like to be a caregiver. They’re your family, and you will do everything you can to make it better.”
It’s the third year for Brawn and Bubbles, which kicks off at 6 p.m. and is co-hosted by The MIND Center and the Reservoir Fire Department of Rankin County. The race raises funds to support Alzheimer’s and dementia-related research and treatment.
Backed by the University of Mississippi Medical Center, The Memory Impairment and Neurodegenerative Dementia Center, or MIND Center for short, combines pioneering research, brain imaging and genetic technologies to make discoveries about Alzheimer’s disease. The MIND Center Clinic offers diagnosis and outpatient treatment for patients with memory loss and cognitive impairment.
Robertson moved to Mississippi from Florida to become a caregiver for his father. “I took a lot of pride in taking care of my dad,” said Robertson, who traded shifts with his mother, Linda Robertson, to provide 24-hour care. “Alzheimer’s breaks your heart and it makes you mad, but it also inspired me to make a change and get as much information as I can about this disease.”
Robertson says he always purchases specialty license plates to support causes dear to him. When he went to renew his vehicle registration, he couldn’t believe Mississippi didn’t have a tag for Alzheimer’s awareness.
“A lady in line at the DMV said she would buy the tag if I got one made, because she had also lost a loved one to Alzheimer’s,” Robertson said.
By working with his state legislator, Robertson made it happen. Mississippi drafted the bill to approve a distinctive license tag for Alzheimer’s, which passed through the state House and Senate with unanimous support. He chose The MIND Center as its beneficiary because of the resources they offer families dealing with Alzheimer’s.
“The amazing work being done at the MIND Center for Mississippians suffering from Alzheimer’s made it the perfect choice for tag proceeds,” he said. “The high-caliber support they provide is valuable to any family or caregiver.”
The first Brawn and Bubbles served as the launch event for the specialty tag. The popularity of 5K races and the unique setting of this one – along the Ross Barnett Reservoir at sunset – continue to make the event a great fundraising opportunity.
Robertson said it wasn’t difficult to get his station-mates on board with supporting the race and the MIND Center. “When you live with a group of people 24 hours a day, you become family,” he said.
Robertson admits he’s not much of a runner. The inaugural Brawn and Bubbles was his first 5K. But completing the race with an extra 60 to 70 pounds in tow is a good thing, he said.
When you’re wearing full gear as you’re fighting a fire, Robertson said, “there’s a bit more on your mind, because the fire has your attention. But, when you’re running around at a race, step after another step, you begin to realize how hot it is, and how bad it smells.
“It’s hard to truly simulate the circumstances you would have in a fire, but any time that you can make (running) as hard as you possibly can, it might make it easier when it really matters,” he said. “It’s an ‘always ready’ mentality. You’re accountable to yourself and the rest of your department.”
After the race, runners and donors will celebrate at a reception featuring food, champagne, musical entertainment and dancing.
“We wanted a race name that was fun and unique and thought of Brawn and Bubbles; ‘brawn’ because we partnered with the firefighters of the Reservoir Fire Department of Rankin County, and ‘bubbles’ because studies have found that in moderation, a little bit of champagne is good for brain health,” said Denise Lafferty, MIND Center chief of operations.
“This event has grown every year and this year we’re expecting more than 300 runners and supporters who will join together to raise awareness and funding to support Alzheimer’s research and care,” she said.
“The MIND Center has a first-class group of people who work hard and show that if you’re adamant about what you’re doing, you can accomplish a lot,” Robertson said.
Brawn and Bubbles 5K pre-registration is $35 until May 1. Same-day registration is also available. UMMC Employees and Students get $5 off till 6 p.m. Monday, April 23 with code UMMC5.