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CaringKind’s Alzheimer’s Walk fundraiser returns to Central Park

BY AIDAN SEIDEN | CaringKind, New York City’s leading nonprofit Alzheimer’s disease and dementia caregiving organization, will host its 33rd annual Alzheimer’s Fundraising Awareness Walk on Sun., Oct. 10, in Central Park.

This year’s event will honor the late philanthropist Susan Patricof, wife of Alan Patricof, one of the founding fathers of venture capital.

While one of the walk’s goals is to raise funds for CaringKind’s programs and support services, the event also seeks to remove the stigma that persists for individuals living with Alzheimer’s today.

“We wanted Alan to share his story and his vulnerability, in the hopes that other caregivers may think, ‘If he can talk about it, I can talk about it too,’” said Eleonora Tornatore, C.E.O. of CaringKind.

Patricof got involved with CaringKind when he was researching care and support facilities for his wife, who was enduring the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

“All roads lead to Rome,” Patricof said, “and I was referred to CaringKind.”

At first Patricof was reluctant to seek care or support for himself as the loved one of an “Alzheimer’s victim.” However, he was quickly convinced after finding CaringKind, as he put it, to be a “very professional organization” with “excellent facilities.”

A young walker left a heartfelt note on the CaringKind Memory Wall. (Copyright Ron Glassman)

“I am honored that this year’s Alzheimer’s Walk by CaringKind, the Heart of Alzheimer’s Caregiving, will be held in my wife, Susan’s name,” Patricof said. “This is an opportunity to celebrate her and help the organization.”

Susan Patricof died this past January at age 77.

The most that CaringKind has raised from a single walk in the past is $460,000. The funds are used to aid advances in Alzheimer’s disease research, as well as strengthen the nonprofit’s valuable initiatives. Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, the event was virtual last year, causing a drop in both participation and public exposure.

However, Tornatore is “hopeful” this year’s walk will be a success.

“The level of commitment and passion for CaringKind has not dissipated,” she said. “Our patrons, our supporters, our family, they are so committed to the cause.”

So far, the 2021 walk has raised $486,000 toward its goal of 600,000.

Although hosting a successful event is the goal for CaringKind, safety is its “top priority.” As a result, this year’s walk will follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s safety guidelines: It will be held outdoors, and face masks and proof of vaccination will be required.

Hundreds of participants waved their CaringKind ribbons as part of the walk ceremony. (Copyright Ron Glassman)

However, the walk is also being offered as a hybrid, with a virtual component. Participants concerned about safety have the choice to “walk where you are” and still show their support.

The Central Park event will include performances by David Hyde Pierce, the television and Broadway star, as well as the Unforgettables, an a cappella ensemble of Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers, and the Blue Angels drum line. The drum line will guide the walkers to the start and will cheer them on as they cross the finish line.

The CaringKind park walk spans all ages.

“Alzheimer’s is a family affair,” Tornatore said, “and the walk was always representative of that multigenerational-ness.”

CaringKind, formerly the Alzheimer’s Association’s New York City chapter, has 40 years experience working directly with diverse groups — including Chinese, Hispanic, African American, and L.G.B.T.Q. communities — to “develop the information, tools and training to support individuals and families affected by dementia.”

One CaringKind program that Tornatore is particularly passionate about is its support groups. Alan Patricof has firsthand experience about how powerful these can be.

“I recommend them strongly to anyone who was in the position I was, someone who wanted to have some contact with other people going through a similar problem,” Patricof said. He is a believer that regular check-ins with other caregivers is critical to a person’s mental and emotional health.

Alongside its support groups, another service that distinguishes CaringKind from other Alzheimer’s and dementia caregiving organizations is its Wanderer’s Safety Program. “Wanderers” are individuals with Alzheimer’s or dementia who frequently suffer from “sundowning,” in which the person experiences a feeling of restless confusion or fear and, in some cases, might wander away from home.

CaringKind has collaborated with the MedicAlert Foundation to design bracelets that contain individuals’ medical information, allowing them to be more readily identified and returned home when police are contacted.

“We want to continue to be a resource for individuals,” Tornatore said, “and hopefully soon, in a much bigger way.”

The Oct. 10 event will meet at Central Park’s Naumburg Bandshell. Details about the start time and route are being finalized. For more information, visit caringkindnyc.org/walk.

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