Eight hundred people from around Long Island and out of state braved the 90-degree temperature to walk at the Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center 11th annual fundraiser event at the Old Bethpage Village Restoration recently.
The event featured a Coney Island theme, with 90 teams walking the paths around the village. The event raised close to $150,000 and the donations are still being tallied. Executive director Mary Ann Malack-Ragona was pleased with the turnout given the sweltering heat of the day. Malack-Ragona said two grants were recently awarded, with $5,000 to the New York Stem Cell Foundation and $3,000 to Dr. Irving Gomolin, chief division of Geriatric Medicine at Winthrop University Hospital in Mineola.
“The Stem Cell Foundation makes stem cells not from embryos, but from skin grafts of people who have Alzheimer’s disease,” said Malack-Ragona. “This is ground breaking research. The second grant to Dr. Gomolin is doing a study on how the removal of Namenda from the marketplace, which is set to take place at the end of the year and the use of the substitute, an extended release formulation will impact the blood levels of patients with Alzheimer’s Disease.”
Team leaders were asked to come to the stage to be recognized. Randy Bet from Old Bethpage with her group Team Cousins raised the most money for this event coming in at $10,028.
“I am proud to be a part of this organization. I want to thank Mary Ann Ragona for all of the work she is doing to keep the funds we raise here on Long Island,” said Bet. “She has met so much resistance but keeps going.
My father and my mother-in-law both had Alzheimer’s, so my two children have Alzheimer’s on both sides of their family. It is really important for us to find a cure for this disease.”
One of the major contributors to the team from Syosset was Robert Rankell who donated $7,500. He was honored with a plaque and was humbled by the award.
“This is something near and dear to myself and my family members and I walk to help find a cure.”
Old Bethpage’s Al Sasano was the captain of Team Lucy, which boasted 13 members.
“Mary Ann will help you no matter what. A friend of mine who is in Connecticut has both parents with Alzheimer’s and he was going out of his mind,” said Sasano. “I asked her if she would talk to him and she went above and beyond, finding him facilities and help in Connecticut. If you call her she will get back to you within the hour. It’s a great organization and they really care.”
Debbie and Rudy Caruso of North Massapequa were walking for Mary, Rudy’s 94-year-old mother.
“We need to find a cure because it is such a debilitating disease,” said Rudy, whose mother has had the disease for 10 years. “She was living in Florida all by herself, calling us at all hours of the night, and kept losing her medicine. “She said that people were stealing her money so we brought her back to New York.”
John and Dyan Latini from Massapequa were walking for the first time in honor of John’s father, John.
“My dad was a Word War II veteran who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. His army tank was the first one to cross over the Rhine in the victory over Germany,” said John. “For 37 years he was a police officer and retired as a Lieutenant. Sadly he got Alzheimer’s in his late 60’s. It runs in our family,” said John, whose uncle is developing the early stages of the disease. John’s father passed away in 2003 at the age of 81.
The Latinis said they decided to join the walk at the last minute.
“We decided that we should make a contribution for the cause,” said John, adding that he and Dyan have resolved themselves to make a team for next year’s walk. “We know so many people now who are affected by this terrible disease and quite frankly, it is the least we can do. Now with the awareness at these kinds of events, we are getting closer to a cure.” Holding his father’s badge, John said it was tough to watch his proud father battle with confusion in the last years of his life.
“My dad had lived such a wonderful life,” he said. “He built a great legacy, had a great family, owned his home, survived a war and was a commander in the police department, yet he would sit in his home and ask questions like, ‘Whose house is this?’ He was so proud and yet he had no idea of where he had been and what he had accomplished.”
If you know someone who has Alzheimer’s Disease you are not alone. Help is available. To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center go to info@ADRC.org or call the 24 hour helpline at 1-855-732-4500. The non-profit organization ADRC is located at 45 Park Ave. in Bayshore.