FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | September 20, 2006
Alzheimer's Foundation of America Set to Unveil Quilt to Remember
New York Debut Tied to 100 th Anniversary of Alzheimer's Disease
NEW YORK , NY— For the past few months, Rebecca Romano of Edna, TX has scoured fabric stores in her town and on the Internet for specific patterns that express her father's life: blue bonnets, the flowers he tended in his garden; his favorite Bible scripture; symbols of the United States Navy; and cowboy boots, a tribute to his wannabe career.
Interspersed with photographs, a poem and his pin from the Navy, the prints now adorn a patriotic quilt that “speaks” about her dad, Joy Elton Lee Haley. Haley was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease 18 months ago.
The quilt panel is one of hundreds that will compose a massive quilt being put together by the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) to remember and honor individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, their caregivers and healthcare professionals.
Called the AFA Quilt to Remember, it is the nation's first dementia-related quilt that will continually grow in size with ongoing contributions.
The AFA Quilt to Remember will be unveiled in Central Park in New York City on November 3, with a ceremony at 11 a.m., and it will continue to be on display for public viewing through November 4.
It debuts in a year that marks the 100 th anniversary of the discovery of Alzheimer's disease, during National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month in November.
“These quilts truly represent the fabric of people's lives—their pasts, their present and their hope for the future. They are an outpouring of emotion that will help us raise the nation's consciousness about the heartbreaking impact of Alzheimer's disease,” said Eric J. Hall, AFA's chief executive officer.
“Just like The AIDS Memorial Quilt, our goal is to bring this quilt about Alzheimer's disease to the heart of America. It will be a powerful symbol of loss and sorrow, yet at the same time a banner of strength and unity,” he added.
An estimated five million Americans currently have Alzheimer's disease, and the number is expected to triple by mid-century. The brain disorder primarily affects older people, including one in ten Americans aged 65 and older, and nearly one in two aged 85 and older.
So far, the nonprofit organization has garnered nearly 300 commitments from individuals and organizations since it announced the initiative late last year. Dozens of panels—those created by individuals measure four feet square, and those from organizations are eight feet square—have already been received at AFA's headquarters in New York City. Some arrive with photographs—even whole photo albums, which document the creation of the quilts and stories about their meaning.
When the AFA Quilt to Remember is laid out on the East Meadow of Central Park, it will equal the size of three baseball diamonds—and then some, if contributions keep pouring in at the current pace. Afterward, AFA will take the quilt on tour across the country, including initial stops in Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles in 2007.
Full of feelings and reflection, the completed panels emphasize the enormity of the disease and the varied lives touched by the brain disorder across the country. For example:
- In Westbury, NY, Karen Henley and her two children pieced together mementos that reflect her husband, Michael, “and the life we all once had,” she said. Diagnosed at 36-years-old, her husband has the familial type of Alzheimer's disease, known as early onset, which appears at a young age. “While it was sad at times, there were also many laughs, and by creating this ‘piece of artwork,' it gave us the opportunity to reflect on where we started in the beginning of this disease and where we all are now,” Henley said.
- In Annandale, VA, Carol Rychlik divided her panel into quarters; each corner offers a glimpse of the life of four of her maternal aunts, three who passed away from Alzheimer's disease and one currently living with it. For Rychlik, this project was the most meaningful of the 50+ quilts she has designed in the past three decades. “It was hard to give it up,” she said.
- In Wayne, NJ, a colorful quilt contributed by Arden Courts depicts a family tree with leaves that note each of the names of past and current residents of the assisted living community. According to Amy Depreker, the facility's executive director, the project was therapeutic both for family members and those with the disease. “Even though the residents are suffering from memory loss, it is amazing to see that they have not lost the skill and knowledge to stitch and put the quilt together,” she said.
For Romano, the making of the quilt was very much a family affair. Her nieces took photographs and wrote a poem, some family members contributed money to purchase the materials, and others helped decide which items were most fitting. The sewing was left to Romano, a quilter who moved from Idaho four years ago to be close—next door, in fact—to her parents.
Determined to have the panel included in the premier showing, she often stayed up until 3 a.m. to meticulously stitch it together—even in the midst of caring for her dad and nursing her mother through a sudden illness.
“I never got to do anything quite like this for my dad. I can't find the words how it made my heart feel,” Romano said.
Then the project got even more emotional. Before shipping the finished panel to AFA's New York headquarters earlier this month, Romano showed it to her 79-year-old dad.
“He didn't know it was for Alzheimer's, and he just cried when he looked at it,” she recalled.
AFA will continue to accept quilt panels on an ongoing basis. To find out about contributing a panel, visit www.alzfdn.org or call (Toll-Free Helpline) 866-AFA-8484.
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America is a national nonprofit organization based in New York that is focused on providing optimal care to individuals with Alzheimer's disease and related dementias, and their families. AFA's services include a toll-free helpline, counseling, bilingual educational materials, and a free caregiver magazine. For information, visit www.alzfdn.org or call (Toll-Free Helpline) 866-AFA-8484.
Contact: Carol Steinberg