Society / Featured Parties

First Ever Mardi Gras Memory Ball Fights Alzheimer’s Disease, Highlighting the Personal Connections to the Cause So Many Have

Starting a New Tradition in The Woodlands Area

BY // 02.20.24
photography Matthew Shetz - FOCUS Woodlands

Plenty of purple, green, beads and masks were on display at the inaugural “Mardi Gras Memory Ball,” put on by The Alzheimer’s Association’s Houston & Southeast Texas Chapter. The evening was co-chaired by Perisha Burnham and Leslie Reilly, and emceed by Marcelino Benito, a weekend anchor and reporter at KHOU Ch. 11 who lost his mother to Alzheimer’s disease. The night raised more than $163,000 for Alzheimer’s and dementia care, support and research.

“We are honored to co-chair the Mardi Gras Memory Ball to help raise awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association, the research they fund and the support they provide families dealing with this disease,” Burnham says. “We all know someone who has been affected by this disease.

“This is an opportunity for the community to come together to support our neighbors who are caring for and living with dementia.”

Mardi Gras Memory Ball's co-chairs were Perisha Burnham and Leslie Reilly have a personal connection to the cause.
Mardi Gras Memory Ball’s co-chairs were Perisha Burnham and Leslie Reilly have a personal connection to the cause.

Burnham and Reilly were excited to partner together for a cause close to their hearts. While serving as committee chairs for the local Walk to End Alzheimer’s in The Woodlands area, they bonded over their passion to bring awareness to this disease. Reilly lost her mother to dementia in 2018 and Burnham has seen generations of women in her family succumb to Alzheimer’s disease.

The evening at the Hyatt Regency Conroe featured outstanding entertainment from Melvin Johnson & Sincerely Yours Music and Production. Before dinner, the band entertained with a brass ensemble. During dinner and after (for dancing) that grew into a full band. There was even a full second line procession into the ballroom.

KHOU reporter Marcelino Benito emceed the Alzheimer's Association's Mardi Gras Memory Ball. Benito lost his mother to Alzheimer's disease last year.
KHOU reporter Marcelino Benito emceed the Alzheimer’s Association’s Mardi Gras Memory Ball. Benito lost his mother to Alzheimer’s disease last year.

This Mardi Gras Memory Ball got enlivened by a silent auction and programming from mission speaker Karen Heger and her father George Grabowski. They shared their story as Alzheimer’s caregivers for their mother and wife Deborah Grabowski. Receiving services and support from the Alzheimer’s Association fundamentally changed their caregiver journey.

Elizabeth Anthony

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ASSAEL
OLYMPIA LE-TAN
EMILY P. WHEELER
EMILY P. WHEELER
MARIA OLIVER
KATHERINE JETTER
MEREDITH YOUNG
LEIGH MAXWELL
MEREDITH YOUNG
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The event established an official Mardi Gras Krewe dubbed the Krewe of ALZ.  This year’s inductees are Dr. Melissa and Jason Bowman, Sonya and Kevin Brazeal, Noemi Gonzalez, Karen and Andrew Heger, Dr. Jennifer and Kirby Hopkins, Lisa and Tom Kelly, Shawn Rouege, Susan and Chris Salinger, and Bonnie and Shon Sims. The Simses were crowned King and Queen of the season. The Krewe will inaugurate a new slate of members each year to keep the honor and tradition of the ball —and the important cause — alive.

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