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The College of Southern Maryland women’s basketball team, students, faculty and staff are joining the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in honor of legendary University of Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summit, who recently announced that she had been diagnosed with the disease.

Sue Subocz, CSM associate vice president for academic affairs, and Michelle Ruble, CSM director of student life and athletics, have found inspiration from Summit through their personal encounters with the coach, who holds the NCAA record for victories in any sport.

“I attended a summer basketball camp with Pat Summit when she was just starting her coaching career,” Subocz said. “Even then, her energy and passion for the game were an inspiration. When I became a coach at the high school and college levels myself, I tried hard to match the energy and focus she always displayed, and I still take every opportunity to study everything she does.”

Ruble, who recently retired as CSM’s head volleyball coach after 20 years, said that while attending a National Junior College Athletic Association meeting in Knoxville she had an opportunity to meet Summit.

“Coach Summit is truly a person who I have tried to emulate over my coaching career and when I got the chance to meet her about nine years ago, she was welcoming and gracious,” Ruble said of Summit taking the time to meet with NJCAA athletic directors while preparing her team for the NCAA tournament. “We are proud to participate in this endeavor on coach Summit’s behalf as well as anyone else fighting this disease.”

To show support for Summit, Subocz has stepped up to captain a CSM team to participate in the Alzheimer’s walk.

“More than 3,000 people in Southern Maryland are affected by the disease and that number is growing,” said Linda Gottfried, director of the Alzheimer’s Association National Capital Area Chapter, Southern Maryland. “This disease has a huge impact — both emotionally and economically — on families. Our goal is to raise $140,000 for research, education and training for caregivers, and advocacy programs that help families right here in Calvert, Charles, St. Mary’s and Prince George’s counties.”

Gottfried said that one in eight people older than 65 will be diagnosed with the disease and that the ratio rises to 1 in 2 for people older than 85.

“This is the health issue of our time for African-Americans,” said Gottfried, who added that African-Americans are 50 percent more likely to be diagnosed with the disease than Caucasians.

Persons with symptoms should see a neurologist, Gottfried said, adding that the Alzheimer’s Association website lists 10 warning signs of the disease.

Alzheimer’s disease is the nation’s sixth-leading cause of death, according to the National Alzheimer’s Association. Since 1989, the annual fundraising walks have raised more than $347 million through events in 600 communities around the country.

CSM is among the sponsors for the Southern Maryland Walks to End Alzheimer’s being held on Sept. 17 at Asbury-Solomons in Solomons and at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf. Participants can choose from a one-mile or three-mile courses and are encouraged to form teams of friends, family and co-workers.

To join or support CSM’s team and to learn about fundraising for the event, visit http://2011walktoendalz.kintera.org/maryland/csmhawks.