Helping to Stamp Out Alzheimer’s Disease

Published in Winter 2018

It was a moment Kathy Siggins had waited 17 years for. She, along with Congressman Elijah Cummings, Postmaster General Megan Brennan and other key stakeholders, pulled a drape to reveal the U.S. Postal Service’s Alzheimer’s semipostal stamp. Available through 2019, the stamp costs 60 cents and covers the cost of first-class, single-piece postage, plus an additional amount to fund Alzheimer’s research.

Siggins began advocating for a fundraising stamp shortly after her husband Gene passed away from Alzheimer’s in 1999. Gene had been a patient of Constantine Lyketsos, M.D., who is now the director of the Johns Hopkins Memory and Alzheimer’s Treatment Center. “After he died, I thought to myself, ‘We really need to do something to raise awareness and money for this disease,’” she says.

Inspired by the breast cancer stamp, which has raised more than $85 million for the disease, Siggins went to USPS headquarters and officially filed a request for an Alzheimer’s stamp. She collected thousands of signatures showing support, which resulted in legislation that led to a commemorative awareness stamp in 2008. But Siggins wanted more.

“Was I happy that the post office decided to do an Alzheimer’s stamp? Of course,” she says. “But what I really wanted was something that would raise money and help find a cure for the disease.”

Siggins continued to collect signatures and even lobbied the House of Representatives and Senate to bring back the semipostal stamp program, which was put on hold in 2001. Finally, in 2015, Congress approached the Postmaster General and asked her to reinstate the program.

This past November, Siggins saw the fruits of her labor at a fi rst-day-of-issue ceremony held at Johns Hopkins Bayview. When she helped pull the drape, a large replica of the stamp was revealed—the profile of an older woman with a caring hand on her shoulder.

“I thought this day would never come,” she says. “I was overwhelmed with emotions thinking of Gene and feeling the loss of so many people who began this journey with me and are no longer here. It was such a special day for the Alzheimer’s community.”