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Left to right, Megan Shaw, Kathryn Fudurich, Lauren Hopkinson, Cristina Costa, Carolyn Poirier and Katherine Andrikopoulos are in the midst of organizing the 2013 gala, to be held March 23.

DOUGLAS BROWN PHOTOGRAPHY

The Donors : Cristina Costa, Megan Shaw, Carolyn Poirier, Katherine Andrikopoulos, Lauren Hopkinson and Kathryn Fudurich

The Gift: Raising $21,000 and climbing

The Cause: Alzheimer Society of Toronto

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The Reason: To raise awareness about the disease

A couple of years ago, Cristina Costa and five friends from university started talking about raising money for charity. The group had no idea what cause to support or even how to go about raising funds.

They soon learned that several of them had had family members who suffered from Alzheimer's, a memory-robbing disease. The mothers of two, Carolyn Poirier and Kathryn Fudurich, had been diagnosed while still in their 50s. Ms. Fudurich's grandfather had also been living with dementia for several years.

"I lost my grandmother to the disease as well," Ms. Costa said from her home in Toronto. "It kind of happened naturally that that was the cause that we chose to support."

The next step was figuring out how to raise money. The group decided to host a gala for the Alzheimer Society of Toronto and call it the Memory Ball. They held the first party last year and received roughly $21,000 in donations for the charity.They are now finalizing plans for this year's ball, which will be held March 23, and they hope to top last year's donation total.

Along with seeking donations, the event also helps to educate younger people about Alzheimer's.

"Our goal is to raise awareness among a younger demographic," Ms. Costa added. "It's pretty common knowledge that Alzheimer's is an old persons' disease, I guess you could say. We are trying to dispel that myth. It has really become clear to us that this is not an old persons' disease. It happens to young people as early 40 years old."

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Then she added: "We really want to get that word out there."

pwaldie@globeandmail.com

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