FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | May 7, 2007
Alzheimer's Foundation Announces Quilt to Remember National Tour; First Stop-Chicago
Emotional and Creative Panels ‘Speak' for Those with Dementia
NEW YORK , NY— When Kristi Burcham of Avon, IN was growing up, her aunt, who lived around the corner, taught her how to sew and do needlecraft. It's a memory that sticks in her mind, especially since Alzheimer's disease robbed her aunt, Virginia Wright, of her own memories.
And it's one that prompted Burcham to create a lasting tribute to her relative by contributing a panel to the Alzheimer's Foundation of America (AFA) Quilt to Remember, the nation's first grand-scale, dementia-related quilt that will continually grow in size with ongoing contributions.
“She [had] always been an excellent seamstress and [had] made many beautiful things. I just can't think of a better way of honoring her,” said Burcham.
At the center of her panel is an unfinished quilt that her aunt had been making for one of her granddaughters.
Now, Burcham's quilt and nearly 100 other panels will be on view across the country, as AFA kicks off its first national tour of the AFA Quilt to Remember.
In 2007, major displays will take place in Chicago, on May 11 to 13; Dallas, on May 26 to 28; Los Angeles, on September 15 and 16; Philadelphia, on October 26 to 28; and Garden City, NY, on November 2 to 4. AFA will continue to accept quilt panels and plans to lay out the massive project in additional cities in subsequent years. For tour details, visit www.alzquilt.org .
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation is the presenting sponsor of the 2007-2008 tour of the AFA Quilt to Remember. UPS is the transportation sponsor.
Consisting of large panels crafted by individuals, including some with dementia, and organizations across America, 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.
“We're bringing this powerful work of art…this powerful message to the heart of America to speak for those who can no longer speak for themselves. Each panel is a celebration of someone's life,” said Eric J. Hall, chief executive officer of the AFA, a New York-based national nonprofit organization that focuses on providing optimal care to those affected by Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses.
In addition, Hall said, “Our goal is to raise awareness of the enormity of this brain disorder. As an aging nation, we can't hide from the fact that the incidence is increasing and that families are in dire need of support services and understanding.”
It is estimated that more than five million Americans have Alzheimer's disease, including one in ten aged 65 and older and nearly one in two aged 85 and older, and the incidence will triple by mid-century.
“Having pioneered early breakthrough treatments for neurological disorders, including Alzheimer's disease, Novartis is committed to addressing the unmet medical needs of people with Alzheimer's disease,” said Alex Gorsky, Head of Pharma North America and chief executive officer of Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation. “By partnering with the AFA to bring the Quilt to Remember to local communities around the country, we hope to raise awareness of Alzheimer's disease and the impact the condition has – not only on patients, but also on their loved ones who care for them.”
Since AFA announced the AFA Quilt to Remember in late 2005, 330 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. AFA unveiled the quilt for the first time last November in Central Park in New York City, drawing hundreds of visitors over two days.
As the national tour now gets underway, the first stop in 2007 will occur during Mother's Day weekend, at the North Rose Garden of Grant Park in Chicago. Displaying the quilt then is especially significant since many panel makers have honored their mothers, grandmothers and aunts.
For example, Jean Bolds of San Pablo, CA uniquely patched together aprons, smattered with pictures of favorite meals and desserts that had been worn by her mother, Aylene Henderson-Bolds.
Bolds adorned the quilt with aprons because “it truly reflects who she was…a homemaker,” she said. “She provided so much love, warmth and caring to everyone she knew. And, boy, could she cook!”
For Julie Sefton of Bartlett, TN, crafting a panel became a vital part of the grieving process for her mother, Laura Irene Ash Walton, who passed away from Alzheimer's disease in June 2005. Her quilt consists only of patterned fabrics in black and white.
“It was emotionally difficult to work in black and white, because the lack of color symbolized the irrevocable changes in our lives, but the process allowed me to struggle and cry and ultimately move through my grief. It has been and continues to be a profound journey,” Sefton said.
Other contributors, who include quilters and those who have attempted the craft for the first time, have woven powerful personal themes into their works of art.
Honoring her father, Rebecca Romano of Edna, TX included symbols of the United States Navy to recognize her dad's military service. “I never got to do anything quite like this for my dad. I can't find the words how it made by heart feel,” Romano said.
When she showed it to her father, Elton Lee Haley, she recalled, “He didn't know it was for Alzheimer's, and he just cried when he looked at it.”
The Council for Jewish Elderly (CJE) in Evanston, IL can't wait for the quilt's arrival in its hometown. The nonprofit agency had recruited six of its branches, including adult day services, long-term care settings and independent housing, to each create squares that were then stitched together into one large panel adorned with sequins, glitter and yarn.
Individuals with dementia were a major component of the quilting team, according to Judy Holstein, CJE's director of adult day services who spearheaded the agency's participation in the project.
“For those with dementia, the hands-on, multi-sensory experience gives them meaning for their day and ultimately their lives,” she said. “This project is giving people a chance to put their artistic imprint on a national project that speaks about and for Alzheimer's disease.”
The Alzheimer's Foundation of America is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in New York and made up of hundreds of member organizations that provide hands-on programs to meet the educational, emotional, practical and social needs of families affected by Alzheimer's disease and related illnesses. 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 .
Note: Eric J. Hall, AFA's chief executive officer, and local panel makers are available for interviews.
Photos of the AFA Quilt to Remember and specific panels are available upon request.
Contact: Carol Steinberg