ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Just over a month after the passing of Broncos Owner Pat Bowlen, several of his children reunited at UCHealth Training Center on the fourth day of training camp to continue fighting the battle against Alzheimer's disease that he waged over the last five years after stepping away from the team in 2014.
With Sunday designated as Alzheimer's Awareness Day, the Broncos and the Bowlen family encouraged fans to swap out the orange in their attire for purple, and five children from the family — Annabel, Brittany, Christianna, Johnny and Patrick — returned to the UCHealth Training Center to greet fans for several hours as they helped raise donations in support of the Alzheimer's Association.
"It's really incredible to see fans show up in their purple," Brittany Bowlen said. "It means they actually looked at the schedule for training camp and knew that we were dedicating today to the Alzheimer's Association and raising funds for my parents and all the other people that are suffering from this terrible disease."
Fans showed their support in a multitude of ways, whether in the way they dressed, the donations they made or in the small gestures they made in telling the Bowlen children what their dad meant to them.
"It's also hard because my dad recently passed away," Annabel Bowlen said. "This day is [hard] but we are showing that we are strong and this is a way to raise money so things like this won't happen."
It made the day more difficult, but the personal connection to all the fans made it all the more memorable.
"It definitely feels more personal, and it's really nice to see all the families here," Johnny Bowlen said. "You see the kids playing and you see everyone having a great time, and it really brings joy to us and to kind of share those moments brings us back to our family and brings us together too, which is great."
In raising donations for the Alzheimer's Association to continue the support for those fighting the disease, the children said they hoped their father's impact on the community would endure.
"I'm happy to turn it into a positive or help do that because that's what my dad would want," Christianna Bowlen said.
Patrick Bowlen Jr. echoed her statement, saying, "He wouldn't expect this much support, but he'd be extremely proud of everyone and extremely happy for everyone."
The executive director of the Alzheimer's Association's Colorado chapter, Amelia Schafer, said that the Bowlen's impact on their work goes well beyond funding, though.
"It's been huge. Alzheimer's still has a great stigma, so many people still don't talk about it," Schafer said. "In 2014, when Mr. B came out and talked about it, that very day we got calls from people saying, 'I wasn't ready to talk about this. Now I'm ready to even tell my family about this.' It's been huge for the Alzheimer's community, and it's been a great partnership. The Broncos are just the most amazing partner for us.
"… It's been a five-year partnership that honestly every year we see awareness about the disease and funding for the disease grow. And for a disease like Alzheimer's, which sorely needs a cure, a prevention or a treatment, it has been truly a game-changer for us and for the families living with this today."