FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | August 25, 2008
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America to Display ‘Quilt to Remember’ in Washington, DC
Exhibit Exemplifies Rising Incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease Nationwide
NEW YORK, NY — The more than 100 “faces” of Alzheimer’s disease that are captured in the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) Quilt to Remember will be on display in Washington, D.C. in September, highlighting the reality and heartbreak of this brain disorder at a time when its incidence is climbing nationwide.
The AFA Quilt to Remember, the nation’s first grand-scale dementia-related quilt that pays tribute to those affected by Alzheimer’s disease, will be showcased on September 4 to 6 at the AARP Life at 50+ National Event and Expo, Washington Convention Center, Washington, DC. The massive display at the AARP convention, which marks the third stop of the 2008 tour of the AFA Quilt to Remember, is particularly significant both because it is in the nation’s capital and because Alzheimer’s disease primarily affects older people.
“Each of these compelling panels shares the common thread of lives impacted by this heartbreaking disease,” said Eric J. Hall, AFA’s president and chief executive officer. “Together, this inspirational collection represents a united effort to highlight the Alzheimer’s disease crisis and drive home the need for additional resources for care for millions of families across America and for a cure.”
Kathy Siggins Brooks of Mt. Airy, MD was at the inaugural display of the AFA Quilt to Remember in Central Park in New York City in November 2006—and she will be at the exhibit again when the massive arts project arrives near her residence. She lovingly crafted a panel, bearing photographs and signatures of the Siggins family, in memory of her husband, Gene Siggins, who died as a result of Alzheimer’s disease in January 1999.
Not only will she get to touch and feel her panel again, but she is thrilled that it will gain visibility in Washington, D.C.
“We want to draw a lot of national attention to Alzheimer’s disease. I think now legislators can put faces to this disease,” said Siggins Brooks, who has since remarried.
Currently, it is estimated that five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, and the incidence is expected to triple by mid-century. With age the greatest risk factor for the disease, aging baby boomers are contributing to the rapid increase.
AFA announced the AFA Quilt to Remember project in late 2005, and the collection now includes more than 100 panels. By coincidence, the 100 th quilt was received just in time for Mother’s Day and pays tribute to a mom, Virginia Loepker of Jasper, IN.; intricately sewn by Phyllis Boor of Elkhart, IN, the panel features a three-dimensional yellow sunflower to denote her mom’s love for flowers.
The goals of the heartfelt initiative include educating the public about the disease and “speaking for those who can no longer speak for themselves,” Hall said.
With time, the AFA Quilt to Remember is expected to grow even more in size and strength. This past June, AFA challenged people across America to patch together their own stories of loved ones in order to multiple the size of the quilt six-fold to reach 600 panels by November 2009, National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month. The “Quilt to Remember Challenge” comes in response to the disease’s climb to the number six spot in leading causes of death in the United States.
When laid out side by side, 600 panels composing the AFA Quilt to Remember would span approximately 2,900 square feet—the width of 40 Olympic size swimming pools. Panels submitted by individuals measure four feet square and those from organizations span eight feet square.
Most of the quilt panels reflect the lives of older individuals since Alzheimer’s disease primarily affects those aged 65 and older.
But not the one Betsy Scheelar of Centreville, MD is crafting. Her mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease at only 49 years old, and has since passed away. It is estimated that a half million Americans are living with what is known as young onset dementia, which reflects a diagnosis in people in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s.
Now, after months of picking out colors, symbols and pictures to depict her mother, including a cross to show her spirituality and the nicknames given to her by family and friends, Scheelar is busy stitching the finishing touches on her quilt panel in the hope that she can proudly present it to AFA at the AARP exhibit.
“We want to have an increased awareness that this is a disease that affects younger people [too]. The quilt shows that there is a huge age range and by putting a face to the illness, it gives people a reference and makes it real,” she said.
After the nation’s capital, the AFA Quilt to Remember will be on display in San Francisco on September 19 and 20 and in New York City on November 5 to 7.
UPS is the transportation sponsor of the 2007-2008 tour of the AFA Quilt to Remember. For more information, visit www.alzquilt.org or call 866-AFA-8484.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in New York and made up of 950 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 helpline, counseling, educational materials, a free caregiver magazine and professional training. For information, call (Toll-Free Helpline) 866-AFA-8484 or visit www.alzfdn.org.
Contact: Carol Steinberg