FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | October 24, 2008
Alzheimer’s Foundation of America to Display Heartfelt Quilt to Remember
NEW YORK, NY—For several months, individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias attending programs at the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center (JCC) in East Hills, NY were hard at work, creating a heartfelt quilt that speaks with their voices about the brain disorder.
Those who could cut, cut. Those who could sew, sewed. Some traced the flower at the core of the panel—a yellow rose of friendship to signify the bonds that have been formed among the program participants.
“The point was to have them be a real part of it and to dedicate it to themselves and others in the program,” said Connie Wasserman, the JCC’s program director of senior services. “We’re showing people as productive people, and that is the goal of our program. These are people who just happen to have Alzheimer’s disease. We don’t define them by the disease.”
The softly-colored yet emotionally-charged panel is now part of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (AFA) Quilt to Remember, the nation’s first grand-scale quilt that pays tribute to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease, caregivers and healthcare professionals.
On November 5th through 7th, the powerful AFA Quilt to Remember will be showcased at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, the world’s busiest bus terminal, at Eighth Ave. between 41 st and 42 nd Streets in Manhattan, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
The exhibit coincides with National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month and National Family Caregivers Month, both observed during November.
So far, individuals and organizations across the nation have crafted 112 panels for the project, and AFA recently issued a challenge to the nation to increase the size of the AFA Quilt to Remember six-fold by next November, to represent Alzheimer’s disease climb to the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. As the moving tribute continually grows in size, it will tour the country for years to come.
“The photos, words and mementoes thoughtfully woven into these panels give a rich snapshot of the diverse faces of Alzheimer’s disease. Incredible warmth emanates from each and every one of them, raising awareness of this disease in an unprecedented way,” said Eric J. Hall, AFA’s president and CEO.
Most panels, measuring four feet by four feet in size, have been stitched by spouses, children or other family caregivers to honor or memorialize loved ones.
Among those on display will be the first one contributed by a celebrity—award-winning actor Hector Elizondo in memory of his mother, who had Alzheimer’s disease.
From the tri-state area, for example, Donna Herran of Roselle, NJ, has memorialized her late brother, John Garcia, with a tapestry of photos.
“It was a horrible journey,” said Herran, who was his primary caregiver. “Hopefully this quilt will make it real and bring more people on board to defeat it for future generations.”
Organizations have crafted larger, eight-feet square panels to mostly pay tribute to clients and the healthcare professionals who care for them.
The Sid Jacobson JCC’s quilt is one of just a handful of larger panels in the AFA Quilt to Remember that was made primarily with input and hands-on craftsmanship of individuals with dementia themselves. They attend the JCC’s so-called Friendship Circle, a social adult day program for people with functional or memory impairment, and its Let’s Do Lunch program for individuals in their 30’s, 40’s and 50’s with young-onset dementia. The project was orchestrated and completed by the programs’ art therapist, Lauren Nappi, whose mother has Alzheimer’s disease.
The JCC originally presented its completed quilt to AFA’s Hall at a fundraising luncheon for the programs last May. It was on display at the JCC’s Long Island building until recently when it was shipped to AFA to become part of the traveling collection—in time for the New York exhibit.
Wasserman said she hopes visitors will walk away with this message: “While so many of us are doing so much, there is so much yet to do.”
On a personal front, Nappi hopes to round up her siblings to create a family panel to honor their mother. “I feel the creating of the quilt will be a very therapeutic and cathartic thing for me to do,” she said.
Alzheimer’s disease currently affects more than five million Americans, and the incidence is expected to triple by mid-century. It is estimated that there are one to four caregivers for each person with the disease. In New York State, approximately 350,000 people aged 65 and older have the disease.
For more information about contributing a panel, visit www.alzquilt.org or call 866-AFA-8484.
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation is the presenting sponsor of the 2008 tour of the AFA Quilt to Remember. UPS is the transportation sponsor.
Also in recognition of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month, sites across the country will be participating in AFA’s two other national initiatives that take place each November: National Commemorative Candle Lighting on November 13 and National Memory Screening Day on November 18.
The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America is a national nonprofit organization headquartered in New York and made up of more than 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. For more information, visit www.alzfdn.org or call 866-AFA-8484.
Note: Interviews can be arranged with panel makers. Photos of quilt panels are available.
Contact: Carol Steinberg