The release of the Alzheimer's stamp represents eighteen years of continuous effort on the part of friend and fellow advocate Kathy Siggins, and nine years of continuous effort on my part. If you think that one or two people cannot make a difference, I hope you will read on and take this as proof that each of us can.
Kathy led the charge for the original Alzheimer’s commemorative stamp that was released in 2008 with these words from then Postmaster General John Potter: “With the Alzheimer’s Awareness commemorative stamp, we’ll ask Americans to use the power of mail to raise awareness about this tragic disease. We hope to draw attention to the causes of the disease, the impact it has on individuals, caregivers and society, and how research may eventually lead to treatments that prevent or halt the progression of the disease.”
With the release of the Alzheimer’s semipostal stamp on November 30, 2017, Kathy and I hope for this and more. Because it is a semipostal--meaning a fundraising stamp--not only will it raise awareness, it will also raise much needed funds for dementia research. But only if each of us buys it, uses it and promotes it. The success of this stamp will depend on each of us.
To me the design of the stamp is both appropriate and highly symbolic. It features a person living with Alzheimer’s disease, while a caregiver rests a hand on her shoulder. This was the original design (but facing left) by USPS Art Director Ethel Kessler released as the short-lived commemorative stamp in 2008. Although Ms. Kessler’s mother suffered from Alzheimer's, this was not a depiction of her mother. It was intended to draw attention to the importance of the care partners of those with Alzheimer's and related neurological disorders. The stamp’s background juxtaposes the sun in the clouds to darkening skies, signifying the declining effects of the disease. While the darkness in the background portrays confusion, the light conveys hope. The words "care, support and research" appear in the selvage in the upper right corner of the stamp sheet.
Certainly those of us who have or had loved ones with dementia understand the juxtaposition of dark and light, despair and hope, helplessness and determination as we face or faced this journey together. On the new stamp the image will face right, and it is our hope that however we face this disease, facing it together and advocating for better treatments, prevention and a cure will give us strength to reach these goals.
One of our guiding principles has always been this: "Individual effort is the only way to make a collective difference." While the semipostal cannot be “the” answer, it is yet another highly symbolic and hopefully lucrative tool in our arsenal to end a very cruel disease that has claimed too many for far too long. We urge you to help spread the word and join us in our efforts to help stamp out Alzheimer's! Please click here to pre-order your stamps today.