EDMOND, Okla. - It's tough not to cry when you hear Joan Clarke talk about losing her husband to Alzheimer's.
He was a dad, still in his prime, when he was diagnosed with early onset of the disease.
"I lost my husband in 2007, and I was a widow at 56 years old," Clarke said. "Our family has been trying to do things to build this up and raise money and raise awareness, which is so important."
Clarke has made it her mission to help others by organizing the Edmond Santa Market each year.
She hopes the money raised through the Santa Market will someday lead to a cure, so others will not have to deal with the grief and loss her family has endured.
It's that caring spirit that prompted Clarke's friend and fellow event volunteer, Carlita Wheeler, to nominate her for First Fidelity Bank's Pay It 4Ward.
"She started the Santa Market six years ago with 18 vendors and has progressed to 120 - all for Alzheimer's," Wheeler said.
Every corner of the Edmond Community Center is packed with craft booths and volunteers.
The time and money are donated thanks to Clarke's hard work and a little help from her friends, most of whom have also lost someone dear to Alzheimer's.
"We have Thunder tickets this year and Mickey Mantle's Steakhouse and tons of stuff from people that just donate," Clarke said proudly.
Clint Stone, with First Fidelity Bank, was eager to help us Pay It 4Ward.
"Carlita, I know you've witnessed the passion that Clarke has for the Alzheimer's Association and all they do for the community," Stone said. "So, on behalf of First Fidelity Bank, I am thrilled to give you $400."
Busy organizing, Clarke had no idea we were there to surprise her.
She thought we were there to get the word out about the Santa Market.
"Oh my god!" Clarke said, as she jumped for joy. "News people!"
Then, it dawned on her why we were there.
Clarke was overcome with emotion as Wheeler handed her the $400.
"We can up the total by 400 more!" Clarke said, waiving the cash in her hand.
Clarke's giving heart did not miss a beat as she thanked all of her friends and volunteers who had gathered to honor her.
"I love you Carly," Clarke said. "You're such a good person Everybody is"
Over the past three years, the Edmond Santa Market has raised nearly $19,000 to benefit the Alzheimer's Association.
This year, the event raised over $14,000 in one day, making it the biggest event ever.