By Jessica Mathews /

A local woman was named the 2020 Advocate of the Year on World Alzheimer’s Day.

Brighton resident Lauren Kovach was named the Alzheimer’s Association Michigan Chapter 2020 Advocate of the Year on Monday, which marked World Alzheimer’s Day. The announcement was made during the Association’s “Alzheimer's, Long-term Care and COVID-19 Town Hall with U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow". Kovach was awarded the inaugural honor for her work as an ambassador for the Alzheimer's Association and the Alzheimer's Impact Movement, serving as the main point of contact with local government representatives, including Senator Stabenow.

Kovach’s grandmother, Helen Tannas, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s nearly 20 years ago at the age of 82. At that time, Kovach and her mother, Pat, took on caregiving responsibilities and vowed to take care of their 'chupe,' Macedonian for 'little girl,' at home. Kovach reached out to the Alzheimer’s Association to learn more about the devastating disease and has been a volunteer, fundraiser and advocate ever since. Though Tannas died from Alzheimer’s in 2017 at age 97 after a 15-year-long battle, Kovach continues on in her fight against the disease. She was recently featured in a video as an Alzheimer’s Ambassador for the Michigan Chapter of Alzheimer’s Association.

Kovach says volunteering helps her cope, turning pain into action – adding the people she’s met over the past decade volunteering, both advocates and their families, are what truly give her hope. In addition to championing various pieces of legislation, Kovach has headed up the planning committee for the local Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Brighton, which raises awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.

Kovach has attended the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement Advocacy Forum numerous times and has advocated for the Palliative Care and Hospice Education and Training Act (PCHETA), the Bold Alzheimer’s Act, and the Improving Hope for Alzheimer’s Act, among many others. She said “All of these pieces of legislation would help the 190,000 Michiganders living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Early diagnosis is key so that families and their loved ones can come up with a long term care plan. And of course, every year we fight for more federal funding from the NIH. Research is crucial. Someone told me once the cure is sitting in a Petri dish out there somewhere. We just need the money to find it.”

Kovach also was recently recognized by the Alzheimer's Impact Movement (AIM) as a member of the 2020 Alzheimer’s Congressional Team (ACT) of the Year.