Why 8News anchor Darrielle Snipes walks to end Alzheimer’s disease

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — 8News is taking the lead on the Walk to End Alzheimer’s this November. This month, we’re sharing stories about why our team at 8News are walking.

8News reporter Sydney Cameron shares Darrielle Snipes’ story.

Today, Darrielle and one of her dearest friends, Tonya Huntley, live an ocean a part — but growing up, they always spent summers together.

“I practically lived over her house,” Darrielle said.

Tonya’s mom, Emily Johnson, became a second mom to Darrielle.

“Her laughter was contagious,” Darrielle said. “But then also, the interesting thing, Tonya’s mom was very strict.”

Years passed, but everyone stayed in touch. Then, Darrielle got the call from Tonya that her “second mom” had Alzheimer’s disease.

“To hear that her mom was, you know, was not invincible anymore was hard to hear and it was heart-breaking,” Darrielle said.

Tonya was kind enough to talk with Sydney Cameron on Skype about her mother’s diagnosis, even though she just passed away this year.

“She’d ask the same questions over and over again,” Tonya said.

Tonya says at first, the family thought the memory loss was chemo-brain, caused by the chemotherapy Emily underwent for breast cancer. She was later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

“We wanted to know if there was any sort of drug that might slow down the progression,” Tonya said.

Unfortunately, there isn’t. Emily passed away in February 2015.

“She could no longer hold onto thoughts, therefore she could no longer worry,” Darrielle said.

That’s part of the eulogy Tonya read at her mom’s funeral and sent to Darrielle.

“It was like losing my mom all over again,” Darrielle said.

Emily, a life-long educator, is still teaching — even in death. African-Americans are two times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s. So, Tonya’s family donated her mom’s brain and spinal cord to research to better understand why.

“I believe for her to know that she helped in this way will, she’d appreciate it a lot,” Tonya said.

This is why Darrielle walks: for Emily, her second mom.

8News invites you to Walk to End Alzheimer’s on November 7. We will be walking with the Alzheimer’s Association Staff and Friends walk group.

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