‘Big’ Alzheimer’s Gala A Rite Of Spring

Frederick Clifford Cropper

Special To The Dispatch

OCEAN CITY – With the first rite of the new season, Springfest, behind us, Ocean City’s second official tradition unfolds Sunday afternoon, May 17.

The 12th Annual Alzheimer’s Gala is itself a passionate passage into spring. Hosted this year in the Clarion Resort Fontainebleau Hotel’s Crystal Ballroom, the event promises to be Star Charities’ largest ever. Billed as “The Vegas Escape,” the annual dress-up affair is being hailed as “big,” according to Susan Curtis, the celebration’s 2009 Chairwoman. “The prizes are big, the games are big; the whole event is big,” she said.

In the live auction, bidders have the opportunity to win a trip to The Taj Mahal Casino in Atlantic City, complete with meals and entertainment; fly in the sky with locally famous Captain Willy in the WBOC helicopter; and wager for a flat-screen TV.

This is first year that the gala features Silent Auction “Mega Baskets,” huge collections of donated items assembled “as their own big prizes,” Curtis states. “There’s a bounty of Mega Baskets to be won,” she said.

Tickets for the 3-8 p.m. Sunday bash are $40 each. Each ticket includes entrance to the “Casino Night” Ballroom, a four-course dinner, dancing, unique music performances and the chance to win “a huge prize or two.”

Headlining the Ball are Frank and Trish Curreri, a Baltimore-based singing couple who have appeared locally as recently as Springfest. Beach-goers have heard their renditions of Frank Sinatra and Patsy Cline during Ocean City’s Concerts in the Sand.

The party’s MC is local resident Jim Nooney. The affair and its purpose are close to Nooney’s heart.

“Every year, it’s like a rebirth. It’s a good thing that we do,” Nooney said. “The Gala is a special rite of spring.”

Anna Foultz and Nooney began the Alzheimer’s Gala together. Both have experience within their families of the sad ravages resulting from Alzheimer’s.

Foultz, founder of Star Charities, began the Worcester County Alzheimer’s Association 13 years ago. Her pet project is the “Respite Care Fund,” which pays trained volunteers to come into the home of an Alzheimer’s patient, relieving the family caregivers for a day or a few hours.

In the 12 years since Foultz began the respite care sponsorship, over 500 families have been helped in Worcester County. “What is given here stays here,” Foultz said. “Our Respite Care Fund is completely out of money. The total income for the fund comes from the Gala. We need the community’s financial support right now.”

According to statistics provided by the Maryland Chapter of the national Alzheimer’s Association, at least 1,500 individuals in Worcester County suffer from the Alzheimer’s disease. Chapter officials attribute that growing number to the county’s aging population and retirement destination popularity. Maryland spokesperson Cass Nagle reported that the Worcester County Chapter is “amazing. That tiny group has raised over $120,000 since it started.”

From casino table games, dinner and dancing and the Mega Prizes touted for both silent and live auctions, the gala pledges to be the second great social event of May.

“It’s a safe gamble that the Vegas Escape on May 17 will be the biggest bang for your buck in town,” Curtis affirmed. “It’s for one of the most heart-wrenching, worthwhile causes any of us face in our lifetime. … It’s not too late to donate money and it’s not too late to get your tickets. You can call me at 410-213-8770.”