September 15th is National Coffee Break Day in support of Alzheimer Society. More than $21 million has been raised since the first Coffee Break event was held in 1996.
There are all kinds of days, anything from National Cheesecake Day to International Cat Day but this one is important. Each year it marks the start of the Alzheimer Society’s annual fundraiser.
All over Canada, people hosted Coffee Breaks today and others “lifted a cup” to raise money for their provincial Alzheimer Society.
Nationally, Coffee Break events raise more than $1 million each year to support local programs and services. Here in Manitoba, Coffee Breaks raised more than $64,000 last year. It’s a good thing, as more than 22,000 people in Manitoba have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.
I happened upon the Alzheimer Society Coffee Break accepting donations for a cup of coffee and a dainty in the Concourse across from Scotia Bank. Alison Woodward, Events Co-oordinator, and Kaitlin Mansky, Community Outreach Co-ordinator, were manning the table. I scraped up a bit of pocket change in my purse and was heartened to see that others had been more generous.
Eleanor Mathews, who’s been volunteering with the Manitoba Alzheimer Society for six years now, was hosting the plinko game at the display.
Plinko is that game where a counter starts at the top of the board and plinks its way through a series of plastic bumpers. Whichever slot it drops into determines the category of question. I was playing for another dainty and had my eye on a Costco lemon square.
I didn’t get the food, animal or Manitoba category; I got the Alzheimer category. That wasn’t the category I’d wanted. My question read, “Is forgetfulness a sign of Alzheimer’s?” I won my lemon square.
Eleanor continued to read, “Do you find yourself forgetting where you put things, or leaving things in odd places, like the scissors in the fridge?” Well, I’m always losing my keys but they’re usually somewhere obvious. Do I have to worry? I try not to think about Alzheimer’s and suspect many others are the same.
By 2038, the number of people in Manitoba with Alzheimer’s is expected to reach more than 40,700. Those statistics can’t be pushed under the rug as the total economic burden of dementia in Manitoba is expected to grow to more than $28 billion in that time frame.
Eleanor’s mother died of Alzheimers and as she put it, “I feel like I’m honouring her memory when I volunteer and it gives me a sense of accomplishment.” She also knows that staying busy is important for general well-being and is supposed to help ward off the disease.
Trudy Mattey, Manager of Events and Volunteers, was also on hand and expects that 200-300 Coffee Breaks will be held locally throughout September and October. They’re not always big events. According to a handout, an estimated 20-30 participants attend each event.
The donations are important but it’s not just about the money, it’s also about raising awareness.
If you want to host a Coffee Break, you can call the office at 204-943-6622 or register online at Alzheimer.mb.ca. They will send you all the brochures and posters you’ll need. You can also request cardboard cut-outs of coffee cups for a donation wall marking donors’ names. Don’t worry if you haven’t hosted one before as the staff at the Society have lots of tips.
People hold the events at their workplaces, their churches, the community centre down the street. Care homes host them as many of their frontline staff participate in P.I.E.C.E.S. training through the Society.
Others host coffee breaks in their homes and invite neighbours and friends.
Last year, 3,600 people attended public presentations about dementia, brain health and being a supportive community, that were put on by the Alzheimer Society of Manitoba. Many of them could’ve been family members and caregivers of those with Alzheimer’s. It doesn’t just affect the person diagnosed but changes the lives of everyone close to them.
Coffee Break donations allow the Alzheimers Society of Manitoba to fund programs for the families and the caregivers as well as the patients. If you’re not near a Coffee Break and don’t want to host your own, you can still donate by texting COFFEE to 45678 to donate $5 to the Alzheimer Society.