FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | January 10, 2006
Off the Ice: U.S. Olympic Hopeful Embraces Alzheimer's Cause
NEW YORK, NY—While Morgan Matthews, the reigning World Junior ice dancing champion, has been steadfastly training for this week's national ice skating competition that could net her a spot on the U.S. Olympic team, she also has been squeezing in time to pursue another passion: care for those with Alzheimer's disease.
Matthews, 18, is working with the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) to heighten awareness of the brain disorder and, in particular, to interest young people in the cause. A resident of Fairfax, VA, she was recently named to the advisory board of AFA's teen division, AFA Teens, and plans to perform with other skaters in special fundraising events for AFA.
This week, Matthews' attention is focused on the U.S. Figure Skating Championships in St. Louis. She and her partner, Maxim Zavozin, are vying to represent the United States in the 2006 Olympic Winter Games next month, made possible after Zavozin was granted United States citizenship two weeks ago. Last year, the couple won the gold in World Junior ice dancing and placed fifth at the senior level in the national championship.
Much like her determination on the ice, Matthews is compelled to make a difference with this charitable pursuit. Her late grandmother's experience with Alzheimer's disease feeds her passion.
“ I thought that I could offer my own talents to help pay tribute to people with Alzheimer's disease and their families, recognizing them for all that they do and the challenges they face,” Matthews said.
As a member of the AFA Teens advisory board, Matthews will help educate and engage youngsters in the cause, and provide input into the division's activities. AFA Teens gives teenagers the opportunity to learn about the disease, connect with counseling and local resources, obtain peer support, and raise awareness in their communities. For more information about AFA Teens, visit www.afateens.org .
“We are delighted that Morgan has embraced our cause. Her commitment and passion shine on and off the ice,” said Eric J. Hall, AFA's chief executive officer.
Hall added: “ Children and grandchildren are often the forgotten victims of this disease. But they need to know that they are not alone. Morgan's voice will resonate with other youngsters who are facing this heartbreaking disease in their families.”
Alzheimer's disease, a brain disorder that results in loss of memory, confusion and other intellectual impairment, affects an estimated five million Americans. The incidence is expected to triple by mid-century.
For Matthews, the impact of Alzheimer's disease hit home in a big way when she and Zavozin won their first national title in ice dance in 2003.
Looking up at her cheering family in the stands, “the moment stands out, frozen in time. Not just because of everything it was and everyone who was there, but because of who was not there,” Matthews wrote in the fall 2005 issue of AFA's caregiver magazine, care AD vantage.
“I imagine now that there are a lot of people out there like my late grandmother, struggling deeply with Alzheimer's disease yet seeming to embrace life in whole new ways,” said Matthews, who noted that her grandmother relished family visits even more as the disease progressed.
To read Matthews' guest column in care AD vantage, visit www.alzfdn.org .The Alzheimer's Foundation of America, based in New York, is a national, nonprofit organization that focuses on care for people with Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses, and their families. AFA is made up of hundreds of member organizations that provide hands-on programs to meet the educational, emotional, practical and social needs of families. AFA's services include a toll-free hotline, counseling, educational materials, local resources, and a free caregiver magazine. For information, call toll-free 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org .
Contact: Carol Steinberg