WASHINGTON, D.C. (UT Sports) -- Legendary Lady Vols' head coach Pat Summitt and her son, Tyler, were presented with the Sargent and Eunice Shriver Profiles in Dignity Award at the Alzheimer's Association National Dinner on Tuesday night.
The honor recognizes an individual, organization or company whose actions have promoted greater understanding of Alzheimer's disease and its effects on diagnosed individuals, families and caregivers. It was given to the Summitts by former first lady of California, Maria Shriver, whose father Sargent Shriver passed away from Alzheimer's.
Additionally, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Representative Mike Burgess, M.D., (R-TX), Colonel Karl E. Friedl, Ph.D. and advocate Garrett Davis were honored for their critical work in the fight against Alzheimer's.
Summitt, who will also receive the Coach John Wooden Citizenship Cup on Wednesday in Atlanta, admitted she had a hard time coming to grips with her diagnosis before deciding to go public with her fight.
"I didn't know what to think and what to do. Like many other facing this illnes, I thought 'Why me?' But I had to get over 'Why me?' because there are so many people out there just like me," Summit said in her acceptance speech. "I struggled even to talk about it, but I remembered telling the doctors 'You don't know me and what I'm capable of doing.'
"You know, I do have that little fight in me," she added with a laugh.
Summitt, the winningest coach in NCAA basketball history, publically shared her diagnosis of early onset, Alzheimer's type, last August at the age of 59. She and her son then created The Pat Summitt Foundation Fund, a fund of the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee, to provide grants to nonprofits like the Alzheimer's Association that raise awareness of the disease, support families and advance research, all while leading the Lady Vols to an impressive 27-9 season.
"Pat Summitt and Tyler Summitt are grateful to be honored at the Alzheimer's Association National Dinner," said Danielle Donehew, Representative of The Pat Summitt Foundation Fund. "We are on the same team as the Alzheimer's Association; we are committed to supporting the millions of Americans impacted by Alzheimer's while we race toward better treatment and an eventual cure."
According to Alzheimer's Association 2012 Alzheimer's Disease Facts & Figures, 5.4 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer's. Approximately 200,000 of those people are under the age of 65 and living with younger-onset, also known as early onset, Alzheimer's. One of the benefits of early detection of Alzheimer's is the ability to remain active, plan for the future and become an advocate for the cause.
"The Alzheimer's Association applauds Coach Summitt for courageously sharing her diagnosis and helping to raise awareness of the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S.," said Harry Johns, President and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association. "The courage and dignity with which she lives on and off the court will help eliminate the stigma often associated with the disease."
The event will bring together advocates from across the country who will be in Washington D.C. for the Alzheimer's Association Advocacy Forum to advocate for added attention and resources for Alzheimer's care, support and research efforts.
For more information about Alzheimer's disease or the Alzheimer's Association National Dinner, visit www.alz.org.
Information provided by UT Sports Information and UTSports.com.