Dunfermline woman steps up to support dementia research in memory of dad

10 April 2019

A midwife is taking on the Glasgow Kiltwalk to raise money for dementia research in honour of her father who died with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Claire Massey, from Crombie, Dunfermline, will walk 15 miles on Sunday 28 April to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

The 38-year-old mum-of-two is supporting the UK’s leading dementia research charity, which has funded more than £7.6million of research in Scotland, in memory of her father Davy McGarrity.

Davy, from Largs, North Ayrshire, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in December 2010 aged 60 and died in October 2017 aged 67.

Claire said: “When my dad was first diagnosed, I dreaded the day when he wouldn’t know who I was, but for me, in the grand scheme of things, that wasn’t the most upsetting bit.

“What upset me the most was all the other stuff it took away, such as Dad no longer being able to drive and losing that freedom; no longer being able to enjoy social occasions as he was such a sociable person; and no longer being able to help me and my sisters as he’d do anything for us. Alzheimer’s took away the essence of who he was.

“He was an amazing dad. He had four sisters so he grew up surrounded by women. Then he got married to my mum and had three daughters. My sister at his funeral described him as a complete feminist because he encouraged us and made us believe we could do anything.

“Between us, me and my sisters have seven children and they are all boys, so after having lots of women in his life, he then had all these grandsons and he was a wonderful grandad.

“We’re hugely grateful that he was still able to have a really positive influence on their lives and that they have great memories of him.”

Claire will be joined on the Kiltwalk by her friends Kat Lauchlan and Alison Valente. They are calling themselves the ‘Keep the Heid’ team in honour of Davy’s favourite phrase.

Claire, who works at Victoria Hospital in Kirkcaldy, said: “It was Kat and Alison’s idea, they suggested we do something in dad’s memory. I was really touched as it’s not something I’d have felt strong enough to do on my own.

“When I was younger, if I was going for a night out, my dad wouldn’t give me a lecture about how to behave, he’d just say ‘come on, keep the heid’. He would also say it if you got angry or stressed and it became his catchphrase.

“The Christmas after my dad died, my husband got a keyring made for me with the phrase on. I’ve attached it to my work badge and, as I work in a stressful environment, I often give it a rub and say the phrase to myself to help keep me calm.”

The ‘Keep the Heid’ team has so far raised around £600 for Alzheimer’s Research UK. To sponsor them go to https://glasgowkiltwalk2019.everydayhero.com/uk/keep-the-heid

Kyle Lockhart, Alzheimer’s Research UK’s Fundraising Officer for Scotland, said: “There are around 70,000 people with dementia in Scotland and Claire and her dad’s story shows the devastating effect dementia can have on a family.

“The money raised by her and her friends will power world-class research projects and help us in our mission to make life-changing breakthroughs for people with dementia.

“We hope Claire’s story will inspire more people to sign up to take on a Kiltwalk and raise vital funds for Alzheimer’s Research UK.”

The Kiltwalk is one of Scotland’s biggest annual fundraisers, attracting more than 20,000 walkers last year who raised £4.5m for over 1,000 charities.

The Glasgow Kiltwalk is the first of four events, with walks also taking place in Aberdeen on 2 June, Dundee on 18 August and Edinburgh on 15 September.

There are three distances to choose from – the Wee Wander (5-6 miles), Big Stroll (11-15.5 miles) and Mighty Stride (23-26 miles) – and the Hunter Foundation boosts fundraising totals by 40 per cent.

To sign up for a Kiltwalk for Alzheimer’s Research UK go to www.alzheimersresearchuk.org/support-us/fundraise/events

For further information about Alzheimer’s Research UK, or to find out more about fundraising for the charity, call 0300 111 5555 or visit www.alzheimersresearchuk.org