Following a slow and snowy month of January, the people of Fort Frances teamed up with the Alzheimer Society to kick February off on a strong note.
The Alzheimer Society of Kenora/Rainy River held their annual “Forget Me Not” fundraiser dinner at La Place Rendez-Vous on Saturday night, and the sold-out crowd enjoyed musical entertainment, fun prizes and great food, all in the name of awareness around Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.Rosanna Tomashowski, the executive director for the Alzheimer Society of Kenora/Rainy River, said the night was a huge success for everyone involved.
“Tonight went very well,” she said.
“[We had] amazing support from Fort Frances and the people. The dinner was great, we had wonderful singers. Really happy with the sold out crowd.”
The dinner draws out a bevy of supporters each year, and money raised from the event is used to help fund the many programs that the Alzheimer Society makes available to people living with dementia, their families and caretakers, including the Society's “music program,” which was one of the primary fundraiser goals this year.
“We do fundraise because we don't have enough money,” Tomashowski said.
“When we do the music project it costs $250... so if you times that by 200 people in our system right now, that's like $45,000. I don't have to spend that much because people are so generous and donating.”
The music program provides those living with dementia an iPod with customized playlists for the person who will be using it. As the individual living with dementia or their family members pick out songs and build the library, the Society is able to send it away to have the music loaded up, and then the individual gets the loaded iPod for as long as they want it, all at no cost to them. Tomashowski said she was convinced of the value of the music program following a first hand encounter with the benefits it can provide.
“When we started in 2016, there was a woman that was in long-term care,” she explained.
“She had a stroke, so she would not speak at all... so we asked what kind of music she liked. She liked church music, so put that in for her. We put on "Amazing Grace" and she sang it word-for-word. Never spoke. There was not a dry eye in the room, and then I was convinced, this was something we had to do. We have a lot of programs, but that is so instant and it's tangible, but it costs money.”
The dinner helps to cover costs to operate programs like the music program. The event sold out of tickets this year, and those who went to the dinner also supported the Society by taking part in a penny table, and silent auction, which all helped to add to the final, end-of-night total.
It certainly helped that along with prizes, attendees were also treated to a meal from La Place Rendez-Vous and entertainment from local singers Brittany Strachan and Sandra Allan.
Tomashowski noted the fundraiser dinners are useful not only for raising money, but also for spreading awareness, something she said the Society still needs to do, as she encounters plenty of people who are unaware of the services made available through the Alzheimer Society.
“It's really important because every January we have Alzheimer Awareness month,” she explained.
“It's a national event that we want to bring across Canada, but especially locally, because even though we do these events, people say 'we don't know. We've never heard about you.' And I just find it so frustrating because we work our butts off, and our staff work so hard going to all these other health service providers connecting people, but still we have so much work to do, and that's the frustrating part.”
Even as they feel the frustration, the Society is still making efforts to reach out to the public and local businesses to help spread awareness of dementia, as well as how to interact with those who may be living with Alzheimer's or other forms of dementia, particularly as they've recently applied for some funding through the government.
“Hopefully we're going to get it and we're going to roll it out throughout the community,” Tomashowski said.
“Because really, when you do Dementia Friendly Community, that means you're educating business people, the police, the banks, anybody that deals with a person with dementia, because they're not just repeating themselves, or they're not being rude: it's because they actually have Alzheimer's, and when they're saying something, they're actually saying it for the very first time.”
Continuing on the theme of education, the Society also invited Rainycrest's Director of Care Tara Morelli as a guest speaker, where she expounded on some of the changes the organization has made to the quality of care their residents receive, especially as admissions had been closed for so long.
“Ensuring our healthcare providers have the knowledge, tools and resources to provide quality care is a priority,” Morelli explained.
“Partnering with organizations such as the Alzheimer Society is an exciting adventure for us because they are an amazing resource of knowledge and support for families here in Fort Frances. Rainycrest has made several improvements in the home over the past several months, with a newly renovated dining room, equipped with wheelchair accessible tables and chairs, freshly painted surfaces throughout the home, which are bright but soothing colours.”
“Our next project is to renovate our activation area, and looking for new ways to provide activities and entertainment to residents in the home,” she continued.
“We have an amazing group of staff, from nursing to housekeeping and everyone in between, that take great pride in caring for the members of our community.”
With another successful dinner under their belt, the Society is thankful to their partners, sponsors and the public for supporting them, but Tomashowski was quick to note there are plenty more ways the public can help to support those living with dementia in communities around the Rainy River district.
“The next one is actually in Rainy River on Feb. 22,” she said.
“The Red Hat Society actually organizes everything and we're so grateful to them. It's a lot of work, we know that, but it's amazing and it raises awareness there, and everybody in the community goes. Then we have our walks in May and June, so Fort Frances is in June before Father's Day... and then we also have the Ride for Memories, that's the district and it ends in Red Lake this year. It's very busy.”
“We want to thank our sponsors, otherwise we couldn't do this,” she added.
“We're very happy to be in Fort Frances, it's always an amazing event and the people are so welcoming and so awesome. I'm just so blown away with Fort Frances, they really support us and we're so grateful for them, for everyone.”