Derry woman honours dad with ‘glitterbrows’ challenge for dementia research


By Philip Tubby | Friday 22 December 2017

A Derry woman will be decorating her eyebrows with glitter this festive season to help raise funds for dementia research in honour of her dad, who is living with a rare form of the condition.

Grainne McGowan will be donning her ‘glitterbrows’ in Metro Bar in Derry, where she works, from 26 December to 1 January to raise money for Alzheimer’s Research UK.

She decided to take on the unusual charity challenge because her dad, Danny McGowan, is living with frontotemporal dementia, a form of the condition that primarily affects those under 65.

Grainne McGowan with her dad Danny

The disease causes damage to cells in the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain, which regulate personality, emotions and behaviour.

Grainne has already raised over £450 in advance of her challenge, which will see her carrying out her normal working duties – but with the added twist of having glitter on her eyebrows.

The 22-year-old is taking on the challenge as a part of Alzheimer’s Research UK’s glitterbrows initiative, which was launched in December with the help of high profile YouTubers and bloggers.

The fun campaign encourages people to buy a glitterbrows pack from the charity’s website and decorate their eyebrows to help raise funds and awareness for the charity.

Grainne, who studies biology at Queen’s University Belfast, first noticed symptoms of dementia in her dad when he was still in his early fifties.

Those symptoms were initially put down to stress and depression by doctors, which ultimately delayed his diagnosis by a year and a half.

A scan showed damage to his brain, which led to a diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia.

It is now almost two years since Danny had to move into a care home full-time, as the family was no longer able to care for him.

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.”

You can donate to Grainne’s Glitterbrows challenge here:

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.”

Glitterbrows kits can be purchased from Alzheimer’s Research UK here:


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Philip Tubby