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Pay it Forward: Seymour teen making a difference in the fight against Alzheimer's

This week's pay it forward features a young high school student who's trying to make a difference for families facing Alzheimer's.

Alexa Austin is a 15-year old sophomore honor student at the King's Academy in Seymour with a big heart. She has a deep compassion for families and their loved ones dealing with Alzheimer's and dementia. Why? Because she has had first-hand experience of how this disease affected someone very close to her heart.

"In 2015 my great grandfather passed away with Alzheimer's and dementia. So, right before he passed away he couldn't remember me. And whenever that happened it kind of touched my heart. I realized other families were dealing with it", said Alexa.

She loved spending time with her papaw, including playing games - especially checkers, which he was very good at.

"Who would usually win at checkers?", I asked.  "Him!", exclaimed Alexa. "He loved checkers. He competed with all the members there. No matter how hard you tried, you couldn't beat him."
"He loved ice cream and checkers. He loved his family very much", Alexa said.

She treasured spending time with him. But she could also see the toll that it was taking on him ... and knew her time with him was limited.

"But whenever I saw my papaw dealing with it, once it got to the point he couldn't remember me, it broke my heart. And that's the point I knew I had to do something about it", she said.

And do something she did. She started fundraising back in 2015 and quickly raised 6,000 dollars as part of the Alzheimer's TN team. Her determination and hard work led to more fundraising events along with numerous awards. Alexa was given a nation-wide award from U.S. Cellular for her money-raising efforts for the Alzheimer's Association "Future of Good Program". She's the only one in Tennessee to receive this award. All told, she alone has raised over 60,000 dollars. All by herself ... because she cares.

The support that Alexa has received from her family and in the community has been tremendous and provides extra motivation for her.

"It makes me feel really good, it makes me feel accomplished. And it makes me want to strive harder to keep pushing with my passion to find a cure", she said. "What's the ultimate goal?", I asked.  "To find a cure", she said.  "So you're going to keep going?", I asked. "Yes, until we find it", said Alexa.