Tracey Brown: Walking to remember those who can’t

Tracy Brown and her children. Courtesy photo

It was back in 2010 when Tracey Brown of Charlotte first noticed that her father, Levi Brown, was exhibiting some unusual symptoms.

“He’d always been a really healthy guy,” Brown said.

Living in upstate New York where there was no dedicated memory care center, Levi was initially misdiagnosed. In 2012 he went to the hospital for pressure ulcers since difficulty sleeping led him to be up all night and on his feet. It was then that he was diagnosed with Lewy Body Alzheimer’s Disease. He was admitted to a nursing home, where he continues to reside.

Upset that there is no known cure for the disease, Tracey signed up for the Champlain Valley Walk to End Alzheimer’s Disease that year. This summer, she will be walking again with her mother and sisters as part of a team named Knock It Out of the Park for Levi, so named because Levi played baseball and basketball at the University of Vermont, where he was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He played minor league ball for three organizations, making it as far as AA ball in Amarillo, Tex., and Charlotte, N.C.

Levi has been an inspiration for Tracey in other ways. He has a degree in counselling and worked at a community college in Glens Falls, N.Y. for 25 years. “I always heard about students who had endured hardships but overcame them and accomplished a lot,” Tracey said. “I grew up with those positive stories. Both of my parents are kind people who live simply and focus on family and helping others.”

After getting a degree in psychology from SUNY Geneseo, Tracey applied for a traineeship at UVM which allowed her to get a degree in social work for in-state tuition and a small stipend as long as she agreed to work for the Vermont Department for Children and Families for 18 months. Twenty years later, she is still at DCF, although she took two years off after the birth of her youngest son.

A 14-year resident of Charlotte, Tracey loves the beauty of the town and the schools attended by her three boys ages 6, 8 and 11. All three are into sports and Tracey enjoys spending time outdoors with them, as well as running marathons and half-marathons. “Signing up for races is good for me physically and helps me clear my head,” she said.

The Champlain Valley Walk to End Alzheimer’s is Sept. 17. The two-mile route starts on the grounds of Shelburne Museum. Tracey has raised over $25,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association, 60 percent of which goes to the Vermont chapter, with the rest going to the national organization. Her mother walks with her in Shelburne and her sisters take part in walks in Massachusetts and New York.

“It’s such a progressive disease, so you don’t have a lot of hope,” she said. “Participating in the walk has been a positive experience for our whole family. It’s been uplifting to see all the time and effort people throughout the country are putting into finding a cure, or some kind of treatment, for this disease.”

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