With a snowy January almost at an end, a local organization is getting ready to start February off with a bang.
The Alzheimer Society of Kenora/Rainy River Districts will be holding their annual “Forget Me Not” fundraiser dinner this Saturday beginning at 5:30 p.m. at La Place Rendez-Vous. Mary O'Connor, Alzheimer Society Client Services Co-ordinator for Fort Frances, said that the dinner is always an important event for both the society and the district.
“There's always raising awareness,” O'Connor said.
“But this is one of our fundraisers here in Fort Frances. We're not funded fully by the government, and our goal at the society is that for everything we offer to the families who have a loved one with dementia, there's no cost involved.”
The dinner allows for O'Connor to provide workshops, text books, guest speakers and more to those people living with dementia, as well as their primary caregiver or family members, at no cost to them.
“When we do our learning series for our families, it's intense,” O'Connor explained.
“It's a 2-hour PowerPoint, everybody gets a workbook, there's all kinds of handouts, all of that, and I bring in guest speakers. All of these things that we do, the goal is that there's no cost to anybody who wants to come and have loved ones with dementia. Cost is not involved.”
Because of this, the society goes all out with its annual dinner, and this year is promising to be no exception.
“We'll have a silent auction for a few big items, and then we'll have a really amazing penny table,” O'Connor said.
“I have three volunteers who are out collecting all of the prizes. We're getting everything finalized today, but there's a lot of really neat things. So we'll come, we'll have supper, the executive director from the Alzheimer Society from Kenora will be down and she'll talk a little bit about the society and then we'll have a guest speaker and we'll have beautiful music provided by Brittany Strachan. It's going to be a great evening.”
In addition to funding programs and materials that O'Connor oversees in the district, funds raised from this year's dinner will also support the society's Music Project, which aims to provide those living with dementia a valuable tool.
“The music project is absolutely amazing,” O'Connor said.
“We sit down with the person who has dementia, or, if they're quite advanced, with their primary caregiver or family. We have access to over 600,000 songs and so we let the family pick out whatever music they want, I send it off to Kenora, Kenora downloads it all on an iPod, and then sends it back and I take it to the family.”
The person living with dementia is then able to use the iPod for as long as they want to, at no cost. O'Connor noted that the benefits of listening to music can be significant.
“Music is something that, even when people can't talk, they can still sing,” she said.
“It is absolutely amazing, and I have seen people who are kind of sitting there, slumped over, eyes closed, and you put on the headphones and their eyes light up. They just come to life. I've seen some singing along. It is just phenomenal, the impact it has.”
She also explained that the benefits and change in mood can last much longer than just the time spent listening to music.
“Say they listen for an hour,” O'Connor posited.
“For the next many hours they have that upbeat, fun, their whole demeanour is improved. It just makes everything seem better, not just for while they're doing it, but for hours later.”
O'Connor also mentioned that the Society is working with Rainycrest in Fort Frances to get more iPods into the hands of dementia patients there, and staff has noticed the same effects.
“So they can be at home or they can be in long-term care,” O'Connor said.
“For us, it doesn't matter. We're improving the quality of life for that person who has dementia.”
With the dinner only days away, tickets are already on sale and O'Connor encourages the public to pick one up before they sell out.
“It's going to be a fun time,” she enthused.
“We're all going to be there. Anybody who's been affected by this disease realizes just how difficult it is for caregivers, so you're really supporting the Alzheimer Society by coming out to this. It's just going to all-around be a fun, fun evening.”
O'Connor also thanked her team of volunteers and the local businesses that have donated items and support for the event.
“We've been so fortunate here, because I have such wonderful volunteers that are out collecting the prizes for me,” she said.
“And all the businesses have been so supportive, even in Emo. I've got a lot of businesses in Emo that have supported this dinner, so I'm very excited about it.”
For those who live out to the west of Fort Frances and can't make the dinner, O'Connor also stressed that the annual dinner in Rainy River each year will be going ahead on Feb. 22, with more details about that event to come.
Tickets for the Alzheimer Society “Forget Me Not” Dinner at La Place Rendez-Vous can be purchased at Northwoods Gallery and Gifts or by calling 1-800-682-0245. Tickets are $50 or $400 for a table of eight. Cocktails start at 5:30 p.m. with dinner to follow at 6:00 p.m.