FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | November 5, 2006
Unveiling of Alzheimer's Foundation of America Quilt to Remember Evokes Emotions
Quilt to be Taken on Tour across United States
NEW YORK , NY—Janell Franklin's adventure to New York City had been planned for weeks: she flew more than 1,500 miles from Grand Prairie, TX to attend a display in Central Park that included a quilt she crafted to honor her mother, Robbie Sugg.
Deb Baillieul of Columbus, OH, on the other hand, just happened to be in the right place at the right time. She was in New York for a storytelling conference and was passing Central Park when she noticed a sign about a quilt exhibit. A preschool teacher and quilter, she couldn't help but stop.
The two were among hundreds of visitors at the inaugural display on November 3 and 4 of the Alzheimer's Foundation of America Quilt to Remember, the nation's first dementia-related quilt that is grand in scale and will continually grow with ongoing contributions.
Whether they came deliberately, like Franklin, or by happenstance, like Baillieul, visitors agreed that they were swept away by the emotion and creativity of it all.
The AFA Quilt to Remember pays tribute to either those who had or have Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia, their caregivers or healthcare professionals. Its goals include bringing the issue of “care…in addition to cure” to the national stage, and highlighting the enormity and reality of the brain disorder in an unprecedented way.
An estimated five million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, and the incidence is expected to triple by mid-century.
Since AFA announced the initiative late last year, 300 individuals and organizations from coast to coast have made commitments to submit panels; those created by individuals measure four feet square and those from organizations are eight feet square.
The inaugural display included the first 75 quilt panels submitted to AFA. Colorful and creative, they were laid out side-by-side in sections in Central Park, giving visitors the opportunity to closely eye—and even touch—the details that capture the lives of those affected by Alzheimer's disease or related illnesses.
“These quilts speak for those who can no longer speak for themselves,” said Bert Brodsky, AFA's chairman, at the opening ceremony.
AFA unveiled the AFA Quilt to Remember 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.
The national organization will continue to accept panels on an ongoing basis and continually take the quilt on tour to cities across America, including stops in Chicago, Los Angeles and Philadelphia in 2007. For more information, visit www.alzquilt.org or call 866-AFA-8484.
“We're bringing this emotional work of art to the heart of America. Each panel is a celebration of someone's life, and we want others to share in that celebration and to know that there are real people with real stories who have this horrific disease,” said Eric J. Hall, AFA's chief executive officer.
Evident of this, most poignant among the panels on display was one crafted in loving memory of Aylene Henderson-Bolds: it noted her “sunset” in Richmond, CA on November 4, 2005, 11 years to the day that her quilt was being shown to the public.
Her daughter, Jean Bolds of San Pablo, CA, felt her mom deserved to be honored through this project.
“She also enjoyed making quilts herself, so this is really a fitting tribute to her,” she said.
Bolds adorned the quilt with aprons because “it truly reflects who she was…a homemaker. She provided so much love, warmth and caring to everyone she knew. And, boy, could she cook!”
Panel makers at the scene were especially overwhelmed with the roll out, which measured the equivalent of several Olympic-sized swimming pools.
Franklin, whose mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease earlier this year, bent over her panel and pondered others for hours.
She had a simple but heartfelt reason for making the long trek east.
“I came to honor my mother. I want her to know we have her on a pedestal,” said Franklin, who shares in her mother's care with her siblings.
“A quilt makes me think about the warmth of her smile,” she added.
Bernadette Discon of Jackson, NJ believes her panel, decorated with medals and photos, helps raise awareness of Alzheimer's disease on both personal and universal levels.
“Many people die from Alzheimer's disease and unless they're famous, people don't know they existed. I want people to know my husband was here and that he was wonderful,” said Discon, who was married for 32 years until her husband's death last May.
The array of panels that compose the AFA Quilt to Remember are as diverse as the people they honor.
Some are crafted by quilters and include intricate patterns.
Carol Rychlik of Annandale, VA divided her red-white-and-blue 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 stitched in the past 30 years.
“It was wonderful to be able to share their memories with people, but it was heartbreaking at the same time,” said Rychlik. “It was hard to give it up.”
Many made by non-quilters consist of photo collages and other memorabilia that portray their loved ones.
In Westbury, NY, Karen Henley and her two children spent many hours piecing together mementos to form an emotionally-charged panel that reflect her husband, Michael, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease at 36 years old.
“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.
Still other panels are minimal, yet just as powerful.
Franklin, for one, admits that she “cheated”; facing a September deadline for the Central Park display, she had hurriedly bought a quilt at Wal-Mart, cut it to size and ironed on her mother's picture in the center.
That it was store-bought “makes no difference at all,” an AFA executive assured her.
As AFA continues to accept quilt panels, as well as monetary donations to support the tour, it is encouraging panel makers to be creative and to add their own touch of individuality. The only requirements are size, a durable fabric and preferably a backing in order to withstand transport.
After viewing the AFA Quilt to Remember, Baillieul said she is inspired to make one in honor of her mother-in-law, who has dementia.
She noted: “This is so timely for me right now. It catches in my throat, but it is making me smile.”
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America is a national nonprofit organization 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 hot line, counseling, educational materials, a free caregiver magazine, and professional training. For information, call (toll-free) 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org
Contact: Carol Steinberg