YouTube campaign by Latrobe 4-year-old aids Alzheimer's Association
It seems that these days, YouTube is chock full of cute kids performing all kinds of spontaneous and adorable acts.
But 4-year-old Lilly Myers of Latrobe will have none of that.
She's using YouTube for a cause — to help her beloved great-grandmother, Patty Lewis, 82, of Greene County, who has Alzheimer's disease.
Lilly has posted a heart-tugging video in which she asks for donations from all 50 states for “her Nanny,” because no matter how much the disease makes her forget, “she always remembers she loves me.”
Sitting on her bed, with a fluffy purple bow in her hair and a blue T-shirt with “Nanny's Team” printed on the front, Lilly asks for help to fight the most common form of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other intellectual disabilities serious enough to interfere with daily life. More than 5 million Americans are living with the disease.
In just a few weeks, donors from 31 states and two countries have come forward with more than $800, said Lilly's mother Amy Myers, 35, who has marveled at the response to the video.
She said Lilly's efforts continue a tradition of selflessness begun by her great-grandparents.
“My grandparents were just the most giving people ... if they had $5, they'd give it away,” she said.
Ike and Patty Lewis were married for 64 years when Ike Lewis died in April 2013. They had 10 children, 23 grandchildren and 21 great-grandchildren.
“I want Lilly to have a memory of her Nanny,” Myers said. “She's been such an influence on our whole family.”
But Lilly's efforts haven't just stopped with the YouTube video.
She and her cousins have set up a lemonade stand to raise $1,000 to fight the disease that is robbing their great-grandmother of a lifetime of memories.
Lilly's mother said that despite her daughter's young age, she has been keenly aware of what is happening with her great-grandmother.
So she set out to raise just $100 in pledges through the YouTube video for an upcoming Walk to End Alzheimer's.
Lilly's mother initially thought the child's efforts would garner little more than a few dollars in contributions from relatives.
“We were thinking $5 or so … it's just snowballed,” Myers said. ”We thought Hawaii and Alaska would be the hardest states to reach, and they were among the first to come in. People are giving $25, $50.”
The use of social media has been a big benefit for organizations that rely heavily on donations to survive, officials at the Alzheimer's Association said.
“Not only is she raising money, but she is providing awareness about the disease,” said Angela Grimm, vice president of fund development at the Alzheimer's Association Greater Pennsylvania Chapter, which serves 59 counties.
But it's not the first time Lilly set out on a journey to help her great-grandmother.
Last year, she was one of the top money raisers on her walk team, raising more than $250.
“At 3 years old, she was going door to door and asking for sponsors on her own,” her mother said.
But when he receives a donation, she doesn't grasp how much money she's raised, Myers said.
“She thinks she's rich when you give her a dollar.”
Craig Smith is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5646 or firstname.lastname@example.org.