Ballinger's Jessicca Cason honored with award for Alzheimer's work

Bill Hancock
Runnels County Register
Jessicca Cason was honored by the San Angelo 20-under-40 award for her work raising Alzheimer's awareness.

BALLINGER - One of Ballinger's own has been recognized by the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce's 20-under-40 awards program for her volunteer work with Alzheimer's. Ballinger's Jessica Cason received the award last week. According to the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce website, "This award recognizes a new generation of influential professionals who exemplify occupational excellence, servant leadership, and exude remarkable personal qualities."

Cason, a graduate of Angelo State University, has been volunteering to help promote Alzheimer's awareness and education for several years. Cason's first position helping the Alzheimer's cause was in Lubbock, "I moved up there in 2006. I didn't know a single person when I went up there and opened that office."

Cason spent her time in Lubbock helping to bring awareness to Alzheimer's without knowing that it would soon affect her personal life, "I got called in 2008 and told that my grandfather, Marvin, had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. My mother and I went to education and training. At that time, Alzheimer's became personal and not just a job."

To raise funds for Alzheimer's, Cason promotes a charity golf tournament ever year, "A Round for Marvin," which is in honor of Marvin, who passed way on January 27, 2014. The tournament raises funds to help with educating the public and offers training. Cason said that her grandfather came from a "can-do" generation, "He worked for Dry Air Conditioning in Winters. He grew up in a generation where you just learned how to do something if you needed to get something done. Dad was able to stay home almost to the very end."

In 2012 Cason moved back to the area and started her work in San Angelo as she continued to promote Alzheimer's awareness and worked in fundraising, "People don't think of Alzheimer's as a cause of death, but it does kill a lot of people. In 2019 I moved away from the fundraising part of things and started volunteering doing Alzheimer's education."

Jessicca Cason was honored by the San Angelo 20-under-40 award for her work raising Alzheimer's awareness.

Raising awareness can shed light on a disease that many see little help for, "We talk about ways to live a healthy lifestyle." When it comes to Runnels County, Cason feels that the county is under-served when it comes to Alzheimer's. She wants to start up an in-person group in the county, not tied to any facility, "There is a lot of opportunity for growth here."

This year the association had more sponsors than in previous years, Cason points out, "We've had a great response from sponsors. The association has learned more about the causes and diagnosis of Alzheimer's."

Cason says that there are ways to now detect Alzheimer's earlier, "You can determine Alzheimer's through imaging. The numbers are staggering. There are 5.8 million people with Alzheimer's. That number will triple by 2050. There is a drug that has been developed that helps in the early stages, but it's so expensive that people can't afford it."

Another staggering number is when it comes to unpaid care, "There are already over $100 billion in unpaid care, meaning Alzheimer's patients are being cared for by their adult children. Many of these people have kids of their own, they have jobs, and all that. And, they're caring for a parent that has Alzheimer's. Unless you're in the middle of it, you don't really see it. It's a hard challenge for anyone. Alzheimer's is a health crisis that people don't really see."

In March Cason was named the Chairwoman of the Alzheimer's Association of West Texas Chapter Advisory Board. The size of the area she covers is staggering and includes San Angelo, El Paso, Midland, Lubbock, and Amarillo.

Cason also has a "day job," being a Health Systems Manager for Humana Military. She handles all TriCare operations for Goodfellow and Dyess Air Force Base. She's a problem solver who "looks beyond the paperwork and sees the human being."

When it comes to the 20-under-40, employers submitted the names of 57 people for consideration for the award. Cason spoke about getting the call from the awards committee, "It's a huge honor. I teared up when the lady from the San Angelo Chamber of Commerce called and told me." She also talked about going to the awards, "It was nice to get to dress up and go to something formal. It was really special."