Craig Whymark, in Essex, shares why he organised a tennis fundraiser, taking part in it as Fanny Galore.
When my dad’s mum passed away in 2019, we just thought he was quiet and depressed because he was grieving.
But over the following weeks and months, something still wasn’t right.
I initially suggested counselling for Dad, which he agreed to.
Then Mum noticed he was having memory problems and had become more withdrawn.
Because of his football background in the 1970s and 1980s, when he did lots of heading the ball, Dad’s GP did some memory tests.
They referred him for brain scans which confirmed he has Alzheimer’s disease.
We were upset about the diagnosis. My partner lost his nan to dementia, so I had an idea of what was to come.
Everyone dies in the end, but we knew it could be a long, drawn out and upsetting process.
After the diagnosis, we didn’t have much support.
When Dad had cancer, we were getting information and doctors would be calling us, but with dementia we have to say something. It’s disappointing.
Taking power back
We can’t do much to help Dad ourselves, so raising money for Alzheimer’s Society is our way of taking a bit of the power back.
Dementia affects so many people, and younger people are being diagnosed.
We’re hearing about new drugs through clinical trials, but that can only happen if people donate.
I’m a drag queen and I knew I could get people’s attention in drag. So, I’ve been doing collections at events.
I ask people to raise their hands if they have been affected by dementia, and a hand will go up at every table.
I love making people laugh but I’m a real person behind all the clothes and make-up and when I come off the stage, I don’t always feel like laughing myself.
My voice may quiver or tears well up in my eyes, but I’m doing it for Dad.
Coming through Covid and the difficult time people experienced, I want men to know that when we are sad, we can express that.
Dad and hero
I got the idea for a fundraising tennis match when I watched Barbara Windsor’s husband talking about running the London Marathon.
I spoke to the manager of Harlow Lawn Tennis Club, who lost both her parents to dementia, and she wanted to help.
I played in drag as Fanny Galore and local businesses were amazing, giving donations and prizes. Over 100 people attended.
We’ve now raised over £14,000 and we’re thinking of making it an annual event.
People have shared their own memories of Dad on the fundraising page, a lot of them Ipswich Town fans.
When I read the comments to him, he got emotional.
He’s just Dad to us, but to fans he was their hero.
There are many ways you can get involved and raise money to help fight dementia. Find out more about our events, fundraising ideas and support.