Looking back, the signs were there. As early as 2001, Christophe Allen’s mother Jeannine was forgetting things – little things to be sure, but enough to make her family notice. “She would go to Costco and buy a bunch of stuff and then the next week, go to Costco and buy a whole bunch of the same stuff. It was piling up,” says Allen. “We’d say, ‘Mom, you already have a lot of that,’ and she’d say, ‘Oh, I thought we needed it.’ She was covering it up.”
The ‘it’ in this case was early onset Alzheimer’s disease, which struck while she was in her late 50’s. By the time she died at 74 in 2016, the disease had progressed to the point that her later years were spent at The Hampton Alzheimer’s Special Care Center in Tumwater. “She was a very proud woman and even though she had to have known something was not right early on, she never would admit it,” says Allen. “I don’t know if it would have changed anything but maybe if she could have acknowledged the situation earlier and started taking medication that would have slowed the progression, it might have given her a few more years of clarity.”
Allen and his father Tom are co-owners of Acme Fuel in Olympia and this year, they’re implementing a method of honoring Jeannine. The latest truck in their delivery fleet is purple – the signature color of the Alzheimer’s Association – and for every gallon of fuel the truck delivers, Acme will donate one cent to the organization. In the short time since it began delivering on January 4, the truck already raised $524.
“It’s going to be a good thing for the Association,” says Acme general manager Todd Deck. “We estimate it will raise about $4,000 a year, depending on how cold it gets.”
Generally, the truck will deliver in the Boston Harbor and Johnson Point areas. If customers specifically request the purple truck, the company will do what they can to accommodate them but there are no guarantees, says Deck. “We need to be as efficient as possible to take care of our customers and to get as much fuel as we can off that truck so it can maximize the benefit to the Alzheimer’s Association. We can’t send it all the way across the county to make one stop, but we’re going to try to move our driver around to some different areas so that other customers will get deliveries.”
Deck and Acme dispatcher Seth Murphy came up with the concept after noticing articles in trade magazines about what other companies were doing across the country. “We already do a lot of stuff locally but being a small company, we can decide to do something like this that has personal meaning,” says Allen. “We thought this would be a good way to earn money for a great cause.” After contacting the national Alzheimer’s Association, they were put in contact with the group’s Washington chapter, which is where they will direct the funding.
He hopes the truck helps bring awareness to the disease and ultimately leads to a cure. “You don’t think about Alzheimer’s at the age my mom was when she first got it,” he notes. “Early onset can strike people in their 40’s and even their 30’s. It’s important to be aware that things like that can happen.”
Doctors understand how the disease works in the brain, but thus far have not found a solution. “They know that there are all of these plaques and amyloids that get in there,” says Allen. “It seems like there has to be something they can figure out that prevents them from forming. So far, they’ve only been able to slow the progression but there hasn’t been a cure. There’s got to be one coming.”
Customers are responding positively to the idea. “We put a little blurb on Facebook and it generated the most activity we’ve ever seen from a Facebook post,” says Allen. “Our driver, Mike, has had people asking him about it. People think it’s great.” Those who aren’t customers yet may decide to purchase their fuel in a way that supports research because they have a personal connection to the issue. “Someone may have had a mom or a sister that had Alzheimer’s and want to support them,” he says.
As people continue to live longer, the disease is impacting more of the population. Having witnessed firsthand the effects on his mother, Allen is determined to be part of the solution. “She was a very proud woman,” he says. “As things progressed, my dad would take her out and she might do or say something that would have been really embarrassing for her normally. It would have been very hard for her to see herself. We want to do our part to at least make a dent in research for the cure.”
Support Acme’s efforts to end Alzheimer’s disease here.
Learn more about Acme Fuel at www.acmefuel.com or by calling 360-943-1133.