BALTIMORE — Kathy Siggins sat wearing purple, a large photo button on her right shoulder. On the left, sat a pin of a stamp.
The photo pinned over her heart was that of Gene Siggins, her late husband. He died in 1999 of Alzheimer's.
In the nearly two decades since, Kathy Siggins has been doing everything she can to raise awareness — and funds — to help fight the disease.
Thursday morning, Siggins, of Mount Airy, was recognized at a ceremony for a new semipostal fundraising stamp. The stamp costs 60-cents, and includes the First-Class Mail single piece postage rate, plus an amount to help fund Alzheimer’s research, according to the United States Postal Service. Revenue from sales of the stamp, minus the postage paid and the “reimbursement of reasonable costs incurred by the Postal Service,” will go to the National Institutes of Health.
The hour-long ceremony ended with the official beginning of the sale of the 60-cent stamp, and marked the end of what Siggins described as a “very, very long journey.”
“It’s so nice that, in a way the journey is sort of ending, as far as this part,” she said. “But we still have a long way to go.”
Siggins became active in advocating for Alzheimer’s research and funding after her husband’s passing. It all started with an advocacy conference in Hagerstown, she said. She heard about a stamp that was raising money for breast cancer and thought there needed to be one for Alzheimer’s too.
The stamp isn’t the first Alzheimer’s-related stamp. Beginning in 2008, the U.S. Postal Service issued 65 million 42-cent Alzheimer's Awareness stamps nationwide.
The artwork on the new stamp is similar to that of the old one. The artwork shows an illustration of an older woman in profile with a hand on her shoulder. In the 2008 stamp, the woman is facing the left — in the new stamp, she is facing right.
According to the USPS, the Postal Service plans to issue five semipostal fundraising stamps over a 10-year period, with each stamp being sold for no more than two years. The Alzheimer’s semipostal stamp is the first of the five, and will be followed by a Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder semipostal stamp, which will be issued in 2019.
Siggins is active in the Alzheimer’s Association and attends any and all Alzheimer’s related events she can. Trying to get more funding to find a cure is the reason she advocates.
“This is what the advocates work for. We share our story, we tell them how important the research is. And that’s why I continue to be here. Not just for me, but for my family, our children, our grandchildren,” she said. “We need to find a cure.”
Thursday’s ceremony included comment from many, including Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center President Dr. Richard Bennett and Congressman Elijah Cummings, D-District 7.
Cummings reiterated Siggins’ goal of finding a cure, and spoke of those he knew who died of the disease.
He paraphrased Benjamin E. May’s poem, urging people to take hold of this minute, and use it.
“We only have a minute, 60 seconds in it, forced upon us, we did not choose it, but we know that we must use it, give account if we abuse it, suffer if we lose it, only a tiny little minute, but eternity is in it,” Cummings recited.
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“This is our minute,” he added.