Local stars dance for a cause

Fundraiser benefits Alzheimer's Association programs and services

Fundraiser benefits Alzheimer's Association programs and services

February 05, 2007|by JULIE E. GREENE

Dr. Matt Wagner admits his dancing isn't very good, but he's willing to chance embarrassing himself for a good cause by participating in a dance contest inspired by the TV show "Dancing with the Stars."

The good cause is the Alzheimer's Association.

Money raised by the fundraiser, a Washington County version of "Dancing with the Stars," during the association's Forget-Me-Not Gala on Saturday, Feb. 17, will go to the association's programs and services in Washington County, said Mary Ellen Mitchell, development coordinator for the Greater Maryland chapter.

Seven couples will compete by dancing the waltz, merengue, tango and swing.

The couple that raises the most money will win. They can solicit donations before the event, and people attending the gala can vote for a couple by making a monetary donation.

Awards also will be given for the best couple for each type of dance.

The Ray Birely Orchestra, which often performs at Pen Mar Park, will play for the dance contest, Mitchell said.


Wagner, a psychiatrist for Behavioral Health Services of Washington County Hospital, will dance with his wife, Washington County Board of Education member Bernadette Wagner.

The couple's twin daughters, Beth and Laura, also will compete, dancing with twin brothers David and Danny Roza. The two sets of twins, all 13 and of Hagerstown, already were taking dance lessons at the Women's Club, Matt Wagner said.

Many of the dance couples were chosen based on their leadership in the community, often working to support the Alzheimer's Association, Mitchell said.

Also competing will be Board of Education member Ruth Anne Callaham with her husband, Art, who is executive director of the Greater Hagerstown Committee; Dawn and Jerry Massey, who owns Massey Auto; Jordon Knicley, vice president of Sagittarius Salon & Spa, and Josh Miller, who works at Willard Agri-Service; and Kat and Chad Smith, who work at Gold's Gym on Northern Avenue.

The disease

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive brain disorder that gradually destroys memory and the ability to learn, reason, judge, communicate and carry out daily activities.

There are about 2,700 people with Alzheimer's and more than 10,000 family members and caregivers dealing with the disease's effects in Washington County, according to the local association.

Dr. Wagner works with several local people who have Alzheimer's disease.

People with Alzheimer's can experience behavioral or psychiatric complications depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, agitation, paranoia, delusions and hallucinations, he said.

"We may not be able to cure the disease, but we may be able to help someone sleep better or be less anxious ... so they can stay at home longer and have better quality of life," Wagner said.

The Alzheimer's Association helps people with the disease as well as family members and caregivers. The local association's five core services are information and referral, care consultation, support groups, education programs and Safe Return, a national identification program for those who wander and become lost, Mitchell said. For information about local support groups, go to


Wagner said there's a lot of Alzheimer's research going on, including why brain cells die prematurely and are not replaced.

"If we can understand that, maybe we can devise treatments or medications to interrupt or delay (Alzheimer's)," he said.

Recent studies suggest that keeping physically and mentally active might help delay the onset of Alzheimer's or slow its progression, Wagner said.

He emphasized that the studies' results are suggestive, not definitive. The benefits of mental and physical activity are fairly modest in delaying the onset and progression of Alzheimer's, and the studies need to be replicated.

Such activities include word puzzles, reading, games and hobbies that engage the mind, Wagner said.

If you go ...

WHAT: Alzheimer's Association's Forget-Me-Not Gala featuring a dancing competition fundraiser

WHEN: 7 to 11 p.m. Feb. 17

WHERE: Fountain Head Country Club, 13316 Fountain Head Road, north of Hagerstown

COST: Tickets, $50 each, are available by calling 301-797-4892.

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