FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | February 15, 2006
NEW YORK, NY—Several Olympians and world and national medalists will add a special element to their routines when they take to the ice on March 12 in Washington, DC: they will be skating from their hearts to support the Alzheimer's Foundation of America and to raise awareness of the growing incidence of Alzheimer's disease.
The event was set in motion by Morgan Matthews, an ice dancing champion and Fairfax, VA teenager whose family was touched by the disease. Headlining the show will be Matthews and her partner, Maxim Zavozin of Ashburn, VA, first alternates to the 2006 U.S. Olympic Team in ice dance and 2005 junior world champions.
Also starring will be Timothy Goebel, a 2002 Olympic bronze medalist; Michael Weiss, a two-time Olympian and two-time world medalist; Ryan Jahnke, a seven-time national medalist; and Amber Corwin, a national medalist from Hermosa Beach, CA who has two grandparents diagnosed with dementia.
Aptly called Skate from the Heart, the skating spectacular will take place following a 3 p.m. ice hockey game that pits the Washington Capitals against the Ottawa Senators at the MCI Center. The Capitals are selling a limited number of specially-priced tickets for entry to the double-header. Tickets can be ordered at www.capstickets.com/figureskate.html.
A portion of ticket sales will benefit the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA), a national nonprofit organization focused on providing optimal care to families affected by Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses.
Eric J. Hall, AFA's chief executive officer, said the foundation “is overwhelmed by the skaters' outpouring of heartfelt support. They are true champions of our cause.”
He added: “Our hope is that the compassion demonstrated by these young athletes serves as a wakeup call to others—that people with Alzheimer's disease, whether loved ones or strangers, deserve the best in care.”
For Matthews, an energetic 18-year-old, passion for the cause was sparked after watching Alzheimer's disease affect her grandmother and other relatives.
“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,” she said.
Matthews' learned a life lesson from her family's experiences.
“Some may think that people with Alzheimer's disease don't need their family or friends in the same way any more, and that their loss of memory makes your presence less significant. Nothing could be more false,” Matthews observed. “Even if my grandmother didn't call me by name anymore, she knew we had a connection and that was all that mattered.”
To help raise awareness, Matthews recently joined the advisory board of AFA Teens for Alzheimer's Awareness, a division of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America that educates and supports teenagers and engages them in the cause. And she began spreading the word in the ice skating community, encouraging her peers to join her in the special fundraising performance sanctioned by the United States Figure Skating Association.
Corwin jumped at the chance, after being struck by the emotional and financial strain of the disease on her family.
“I feel so sad for my grandfather when I see him getting confused or unable to finish his sentences. I can see his frustration and embarrassment,” she said. “It takes a toll on my grandmother who needs to keep an eye on him at all times. They have future monetary concerns as well.”
Even skating stars without first-hand experience have recognized the enormity of the disease. “Any time I can use my talents to benefit others, I am happy to do so. I hope that the event helps families care for their loved ones,” Goebel said.
Alzheimer's disease, which results in loss of memory, confusion and other intellectual decline, affects an estimated five million Americans, including one in ten aged 65 and older . The incidence is expected to triple by mid-century.The Alzheimer's Foundation of America is headquartered in New York and 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 Helpline) 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org or www.afateens.org .
Contact: Carol Steinberg