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Forget-Me-Not Gala benefits county's Alzheimer's association

February 13, 2005|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

While about 2,700 Washington County residents suffer from Alzheimer's disease, approximately 10,000 relatives and friends are in some way affected by the illness.

The numbers, taken from the 2000 U.S. Census, serve as reminders of the importance of the programs and services available to Alzheimer's patients and their loved ones, according to representatives and supporters of the Alzheimer's Association Greater Maryland Chapter.

The chapter has an office in Hagerstown, which is part of the Western Maryland Regional Office.

On Saturday night, about 135 supporters of the organization turned out for the second annual Forget-Me-Not Gala at Fountain Head Country Club.

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The gala, which had a theme this year of "Railway to Yesterday," is a fund-raiser for the association.

The honorary co-chairs of the event were Michael and Betsy Day.

Development Coordinator Mary Ellen Mitchell said Alzheimer's patients' strongest memories tend to be of happenings from long ago, which is why the railroad theme was picked this year.

Hagerstown is nicknamed the "Hub City" because of its railroad heritage.

Shortly after the event began, Mitchell said seven Alzheimer's patients had been able to identify relatives in old photos on display.

Joyce A. Heptner, the association's regional director, said the group anticipated that the gala would raise $15,000 to $17,000.

The event attracted about 110 people last year, raising about $10,000.

The gala featured a silent auction, which included items such as four tickets to George Carlin's March 4 show at The Maryland Theatre, oil paintings donated by Manny's Oriental Rugs and a green and pink lap quilt made by Marsha Mauriello.

Mauriello made the quilt in honor of her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's.

"All the money that we raise stays here in the county and takes care of (those affected by the disease)," Mitchell said.

Jan Cirincione, a gala committee member, said she got involved with the association because she personally was affected by the disease.

Her father, who died in 1999, suffered from dementia, and her mother, who is 90, has a cognitive impairment.

So she began looking for support groups.

According to the association's Web site, the organization provides support groups for caregivers and family members of patients, a telephone help line, financial assistance, counseling and other services.

Dr. Matthew Wagner, a geriatric psychiatrist, said the Alzheimer's Association offers a valuable service once a doctor makes the diagnosis.

"There's a limit to what a doctor can do in the office to educate people and provide support," Wagner said. "So the association is a really helpful complement to what the family hears from the doctor."

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