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(NECN: Jack Thurston, Burlington, Vt.) - Seth Rogen, the writer and performer famous for such comedic movies as "This is the End" and "Knocked Up," visited Burlington, Vermont Thursday as part of his more serious mission. Rogen has emerged as an ardent supporter of research into Alzheimer's disease.
"There's an inherent appetite for people to be talking about it," Rogen told New England Cable News at an interview Thursday afternoon inside Merrill's Roxy Cinema. "If we can in some way make it a slightly cooler thing to care about, then I think that would be the first step to getting the type of funding things like heart disease and cancer get."
Rogen's mother-in-law suffers from the disease that robs patients of their memories and other functions as they deteriorate. Earlier this year, the celebrity asked members of Congress to support research into fighting what the Alzheimer's Association says is the most common form of dementia. "People need more help," Rogen told a Congressional panel in late February. "After forgetting who she and her loved ones were, my mother-in-law, a teacher for 35 years, then forgot how to speak, feed herself, dress herself, and go to the bathroom herself, all by the age of 60."
Rogen came to Burlington because of his "Hilarity for Charity" effort. He promised to reward whichever college group raised the most money for Alzheimer's research and support with a visit and a free advance screening of his new movie "Neighbors," in which he in which he and his on-screen wife battle a rowdy fraternity house next door. His adversaries in the movie are led by a handsome fraternity brother played by Zac Efron.
John Fox, the president of the University of Vermont's Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, told NECN he and his fellow "Pikes" ended up raising more than $27,000 dollars, winning Rogen's challenge. Fox said the 80 brothers managed to do so by grassroots work on social media, asking friends and relatives for small donations. They also held a popular talent show on campus, with ticket sales supporting their "Hilarity for Charity" project.
"It's cool to meet a celebrity, and yeah it's cool to see an early movie, but let's really think about why we're doing it," Fox said. "[Alzheimer's is] something really close to our hearts."
Fox said his grandfather recently passed away from Alzheimer's. The Alzheimer's Association says the number of Americans facing the debilitating brain disease could triple to 16-million by the year 2050. "And hopefully other people's grandfathers and grandmothers and families won't be affected as well," Fox said, imagining a world when research discovers a way to reduce the number of cases of the disease.
"It's going to take a movement, just like we've had with cancer and HIV, to really address this disease," said Martha Richardson, the executive director of the Vermont chapter of the Alzheimer's Association. "I started with the Alzheimer's Association almost years ago, and the awareness level four years ago to today is staggering."
Richardson praised both the UVM students and Seth Rogen for their hard work to spotlight the disease.
Seth Rogen gave the UVM fraternity huge props, saying it'll take a lot more fundraisers like theirs to start unraveling the mysteries of Alzheimer's. "The hope is if you get to them at a young age, it'll be something they'll grow up caring about," Rogen said.
"Neighbors" is an R-rated Universal Pictures release. Universal Pictures and New England Cable News share a parent company, Comcast.
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