Darrell K Royal Fund to jumpstart Alzheimer’s research in Texas

FILE_PHOTO_Royal_Marlon_Taylor

Marlon Taylor

Longhorn coach Darrell K Royal discusses sports and university events with Kinsolving women in August of 1971. Royal coached at the University of Texas from 1957-1976. (Daily Texan file photo)

Alexa Ura

Legendary football coach Darrell K Royal left behind a legacy on the football field that will also continue into the field of Alzheimer’s research.

The Darrell K Royal Fund for Alzheimer’s Research was launched Tuesday during the testimony of his wife Edith Royal at a Texas Senate Interim Joint Committee hearing on Alzheimer’s disease.

“Everyday since Darrell’s diagnosis of dementia, I deal with the stress of managing everything without my best friend helping me to make decisions,” she said. “It is an important legacy, as important as football, that we lend the strength of Darrell’s name to this incredible group of prominent Texans who want to join us in this endeavor.”

Darrell Royal has been living with dementia for several years and sat next to his wife during the hearing. He spoke briefly in front of the committee.

“I feel that I am home when I visit Austin, Texas,” said Darrell Royal, who proudly held up his “Hook ‘Em” sign as he left the Senate floor.

Royal is the winningest football coach in UT history. In 20 seasons at Texas from 1957-1976, he coached the Longhorns to 167 wins, including three national championships.

According the their website, the DKR Fund will conduct clinical research on Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias with the hope of funding collaborative research in Texas that can be promoted nationwide.

Texas ranks third in the nation regarding the number of citizens diagnosed with the disease, according to the National Alzheimer’s Association. In 2010, there were 340,000 individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the NAA predicts this will increase to 400,000 individuals by 2020. The fund will focus both on research and care for Texans dealing with Alzheimer’s disease through developing new treatment strategies and methods of prevention.

Actor Matthew McConaughey and seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong, long-time supporters of the Royal family and members of the board of advisors for the fund, were at the hearing. Other board members include UT football head coach Mack Brown, Attorney General Greg Abbott and singer-songwriter Willie Nelson.

Debbie Hanna, president of the Alzheimer’s Association Capital of Texas Chapter, said the fund will be a significant benefit to researchers and caregivers in Texas because of the strength and influence of Royal’s name. Hanna also testified before the committee on Tuesday on behalf of the association.

“The Royals’ bravery is an indication of the kind people they are and the quality of which they have lived their life,” she said. “A diagnosis is difficult for the person with disease, and their family and Mrs. Royal cares about this.”

Robert Barber, scientific manager of the Texas Alzheimer’s Research and Care Consortium, said funding for Alzheimer’s research usually goes to research on the East and West coast even though Texas is greatly affected by the disease.

“The fund will be a game-changer because it may increase communication and collaboration between Texas’ scientists,” he said. “It will also focus on caregivers of Alzheimer’s patients, which is an area of research that badly needs improvements.”

Barber said there is a lot of progress to be made in Alzheimer’s research in Texas, and the fund will be beneficial in bridging the gaps between Texas and the rest of the nation.

Printed on Friday, March 2, 2012 as: DKR Fund aims to conduct research on Alzheimer's