Derry student raises £2,000 for dementia research in ‘glitterbrows’ challenge for dad


By Philip Tubby | Friday 02 February 2018

A Derry woman has raised over £2,000 for Alzheimer’s Research UK by decorating her eyebrows with glitter in honour of her dad, who has frontotemporal dementia (FTD).

Grainne McGowan (22) who studies biology at Queen’s University Belfast, heard about Alzheimer’s Research UK’s glitterbrows initiative in December when it was launched with the help of YouTubers and bloggers.

She decided to don glitterbrows over the Christmas season at Metro Bar in Derry where she works to help raise funds for dementia research.

Grainne McGowan with co-workers at Metro Bar in Derry

Grainne took on the challenge because there are currently no treatments that can slow or prevent the development of FTD, the rare form of dementia that her father has.

The condition – which is caused by damage to cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain – is a progressive condition that primarily affects behaviour, personality and speech.

The glitterbrows challenge added some festive sparkle to Grainne’s life after what has been a painful few years for her and her family.

Danny was only in his early fifties when he started showing symptoms of FTD. He started to struggle with conversation and behaviour, which ultimately led to him stepping away from his accountancy business.

The symptoms were initially put down to depression by doctors, but Grainne and her family knew that there was something else going on. Her mother, Donna, pushed for more tests, which led to Danny being diagnosed with FTD at 56.

Grainne McGowan with Danny

It is now almost two years since Danny moved into a care home full-time, as the family were no longer able to cope with his care needs as his condition progressed.

Grainne said:

“Initially, we were relieved to know what it was, but it was really hard. He was so young, and so were we. My younger brother is only 15 now, so it’s all he has ever known.”

“At the moment, he has no conversation skill left. You can get the odd word out of him, but that’s all.

“The whole thing has hit Mum the hardest. Dad did everything for all of us. She has had to go from having a husband who provides for her to having to provide for everybody. But she has reached a point where she’s coping pretty well.

“I decided to take on this challenge because I’m aware of how many people are affected by dementia. There is no cure, no prevention. We need research to stop this from happening to other families.”

Matt Clarke, Northern Ireland’s Regional Fundraising Officer for Alzheimer’s Research UK said:

“We would like to thank Grainne for her amazing fundraising efforts. Her unique challenge is a great way to raise awareness of the lesser known forms of dementia, such as frontotemporal dementia.

“There are now over 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia, and by 2025, this is expected to reach over one million. Alzheimer’s Research UK is aiming to find the first life-changing treatment for dementia by 2025, and this would not be possible without the pioneering efforts of people like Grainne.”

Those who want to fundraise in a glamorous way can purchase a glitterbrows kit from Alzheimer’s Research UK at


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Philip Tubby