Jay Allen

Country music artist Jay Allen sings his song “Blank Stares” while his mother hugs him Friday night at the Dubuque County Fair. Allen brought her on stage as he told the crowd that she has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease — a topic that is the focus of the song.

When Lori Dittmer recorded country singer Jay Allen’s touching serenade to his mother Friday night at the Dubuque County Fair, she didn’t think much of it.

She posted the video to her Facebook page but didn’t have high expectations.

“I hoped that maybe Jay would see it,” Dittmer said. “I thought that would be pretty cool.”

Allen did see it. And so have hundreds of thousands of others. As of early today, the video already had amassed more than 925,000 views.

“I had no idea it would blow up like this,” Dittmer said. “It’s just taking off.”

Allen, a Cedar Falls, Iowa, native now living in the Nashville area, opened for country star Jake Owen on Friday at the fair.

Near the end of his set, Allen called his mother, Sherry, to the stage for a special performance of “Blank Stares.”

Allen wrote the song after Sherry was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, a progressive disorder that can lead to dementia and other debilitating symptoms. Allen said the song helped him cope with the news of his mother’s illness.

The lyrics include, “I know you’re still in there, deep down somewhere, I swear I still see you, between the blank stares.”

Throughout the performance, Sherry listened with her eyes closed, her arms wrapped around her son. Many in the crowd could be seen wiping away tears after the song ended.

On Wednesday, Allen told the Telegraph Herald that he wrote the song to bring attention to the disease, in the hopes of one day finding a cure. All proceeds from the song’s iTunes sales are being donated to Abe’s Garden, an Alzheimer’s and memory care center in Nashville.

“I knew that I need to shine a light on this,” Allen said. “This disease impacts so many families. A lot of people don’t know that it’s all around us.”

Dittmer said it was one of the most moving musical performances she had ever seen, and she felt compelled to share it.

“I’m really glad I was able to capture the moment,” she said. “It was so cool. You could tell he was singing from his heart.”

In her Facebook post sharing the video and a photo of Allen and his mother, Dittmer wrote that it was “one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever experienced.”

A few days after posting the video, Dittmer checked her Facebook page and, to her surprise, saw it had garnered more than 200,000 views. Before she knew it, it was rising at a rate of 100,000 views per day.

It wasn’t long until Allen himself took notice.

“Jay reached out to me, asking about posting the video on his page,” Dittmer said. “He was happy about the whole thing.”

Allen said he was shocked that the video has proven so popular.

“It was like a holy-smokes moment,” he said, recounting seeing the video’s view count. “This is actually happening.”

Dittmer said she is receiving messages from people throughout the country and beyond.

“I got a message from a lady in Ireland who asked if she could share it,” Dittmer said. “She said she was with the Alzheimer’s Society of Ireland and she wanted to show it to everyone.”

Kevin Kotz, Dubuque County Fair manager, said the performance was a testament to what he believes county fairs are all about.

“There’s nothing better than people showing their emotions for family,” he said. “A big part of the fair is to bring families together, so that performance really captured that.”

So far, Dittmer’s post has been shared more than 8,400 times and the video itself, more than 2,800 times. She hopes those numbers continue to rise.

“Alzheimer’s is something that affects a lot of people,” she said. “I hope this spreads awareness.”

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