London Community News
By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News/Twitter: @MalloryClarkson
At the age of 60, Cindy Henry laced up her shoes and pushed physical limits to embark on a life-changing trek, climbing 19,340 feet to the summit of Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro.
But, the satisfaction from the process of getting physically fit or even the sense of accomplishment she felt after successfully climbing to the mountain top was overshadowed by one of the causes behind her journey.
“Simultaneously with doing this climb, I’ve been on a three-year journey with my mother who was just diagnosed with vascular dementia and it’s been a very emotional time,” Henry said. “One of the activities that she was doing that was of great benefit to her was attending the Alzheimer Outreach (Services) program.
“So, I thought maybe I could turn it into a fundraiser.”
The Alzheimer Outreach Services (AOS) program is a community-based service that operates out of the McCormick Home.
The AOS program is the largest of its kind in Ontario, operating seven days a week and there are approximately 180 registered clients at any one time. People with both Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia disorders benefit from AOS.
Lynne Ryckman, director of development for the McCormick Home Foundation (one of AOS’ funding bodies), said when Henry approached her about the fundraising opportunity, she jumped at it.
“When she (Henry) came in, she was trying to get her mom in for another day and it’s a big emotional commitment to say, ‘I’m going to trust over the care of my mom to this program’,” Ryckman said. “When her mom started the program, she (Henry) came back to me and said, ‘My mom is a completely different person — this is the cause I want to fundraise for’.”
In total, Henry raised approximately $3,600 in about a month and a half for the AOS program. And the clients made sure Henry didn’t leave for Tanzania empty-handed.
“The clients of the program created a silk banner through their art therapy program and I took that to the summit with me to have pictures taken once I was up there,” Henry said.
The banner, along with photos of Henry holding it on the summit, now hang AOS program’s front hall, for all to see.
Henry said raising funds for the program gave the climb a greater purpose.
“It was a great motivator for me to make sure I did everything I could to succeed,” she said. “The world knows you’re going up there and they’re donating money, not for me to do the climb, but they want to see me succeed because of the Alzheimer Outreach (Services) program."
Despite the steep and rocky terrain, Henry never considered stopping. She said failure wasn’t an option.
“There were times where I thought I couldn’t take another step forward,” Henry said. “Once I got there, the summit, for some reason, became more important and part of that was to get the banner up there from the Alzheimer outreach program.”
The money raised will be directly funneled into the pool of money used for subsidies for clients and program enhancements. Although about 75 per cent of AOS’ funding comes from the Southwest Local Health Integration Network, there’s still a $50,000 shortfall that is covered by the McCormick Home Foundation.
Magdalen Carter, director of AOS, said both the subsidy and program enhancements are big things for foundation. Although the user fee for AOS is only $25, she said that isn’t affordable for everyone.
“For people who really run into hardships with finances, the foundation has been really good in subsidizing them,” she said.
On the other hand, funding extras for program enhancements, Carter said, makes a difference. She explained when things like supplies are needed for activities such as gardening, or the music and art therapies, money is found through the foundation.
Aside from offering clients individualized delivery of care, AOS also provides family support through counselling and support groups.
After returning to Canada Henry said she visited AOS clients and told them about her adventure. She added she hopes her trek has inspired to fundraising for the program.
“We’re really fortunate to have that facility in out community,” she said. “The shame of it is … you don’t realize it’s there until you have to use it.
“If I was going to give somebody some advice on it, I would say, just do it.”
For more information on AOS, visit www.alzheimeroutreach.org.