NEWPORT—It’s hard to believe Alexa Austin is poised to begin her senior year at King’s Academy. Seems like only yesterday she was a pint-sized Newport Grammar School student with wisdom beyond her years.

That’s when her beloved great-grandfather, J.L. Austin, fell victim to rapid onset dementia and, in a matter of weeks, went from living alone, driving to work, and caring for himself, to ending his days in the memory unit of Wellington Place.

Throughout the whole ordeal, Alexa was by his side, visiting every day, playing checkers with the man who could no longer recall her name, slipping him candy bars, and vowing to do whatever she could to help find a cure for the insidious disease.

She became involved in Alzheimer’s Tennessee, a group dedicated to making Alzheimer’s a memory and over the years has spearheaded efforts that have raised well over $100,000 for the cause.

Now a statuesque beauty, a nationally recognized athlete, and an honor student, Alexa continues her fundraising efforts. With this year’s COVID-19 pandemic, the closures of schools, and the general shut-down of everyday society, general fundraisers have pretty much been shelved.

But Alexa only sees that as another challenge to be met and overcome.

Beginning July 1, she will host her second annual Christmas in July fundraiser, a silent auction for fully decorated, themed Christmas trees and other holiday items that will be on display at Manes Funeral Home, 363 East Main Street, between 8:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. each day until bidding closes on July 24.

“Nearly everything we have has been donated,” said Alexa on Wednesday morning as she put the finishing touches on a couple of trees. “People have been so kind and generous.”

This year she has a total of 16 trees, ranging from 4 to ten feet tall, plus three tables of “little trees.”

She also has wreaths, angels, lighted decorations, and a couple of antique, straight-back chairs decked out in holiday attire.

Kathy Brooks and staff from Petals Florist have donated their time and talents in helping put together the display.

“We also have a ‘Cash-and-Carry’ table with items buyers can purchase outright,” she said.

But it’s the excitement of the silent bidding on the majority of items that will bring the joy needed during these gloomy days. “I want everyone to come buy and place their bids,” said Alexa. “Together we can make Alzheimer’s a memory.”

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