Charity from the heart – Alzheimer's Youth Alliance of Greenwich

Charity from the heart - Alzheimer's Youth Alliance of Greenwich

Covent of the Sacred Heart junior Ava Vanech and two students from Greenwich Academy founded the Alzheimer’s Youth Alliance of Greenwich to give students from all over Greenwich the opportunity to take initiative against Alzheimer’s disease.

Alzheimer's Youth Alliance of Greenwich members. Courtesy of Ava Vanech '17
Alzheimer’s Youth Alliance of Greenwich members.
Courtesy of Ava Vanech ’17

According to alz.orgaround 5.3 million Americans in 2015 suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, making it the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. This statistic motivated Ava, her friends, and her family to take action and raise awareness for this important issue.
Ava Vanech’s mother, Ms. Nicole Peluso, and aunt, Mrs. Frederica McGannon, volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association in Greenwich. This organization hosts Celebrating Hope, an annual cocktail event and auction to raise money for Alzheimer’s research and patient care. 
When the Alzheimer’s Association was looking for young volunteers to participate at their events and get more involved in the cause, Ava and two girls from Greenwich Academy, sophomores Audrey Karmen-Tuohy and Hannah Subramaniam, volunteered. Their work with the Alzheimer’s Association inspired them to start a more permanent group that also volunteers with the Association, but also enables teenagers to host events and raise money for Alzheimer’s research.
Ava and the two Greenwich Academy students created the Alzheimer’s Youth Alliance February 2015. The group now has over 15 members, including two other Sacred Heart students, juniors Morgan Johnson and Helen Rail.

“It feels great to be a part of an effort that means so much to so many people, and to be only one part of an incredible organization, the Alzheimer’s Association. We have so much fun meeting and planning our different events. It is truly an amazing opportunity,” Helen said.

Every year, the Alzheimer’s Alliance hosts a walk in Fairfield County, Connecticut to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s research and care. Ava, Morgan and Helen, founded their own team for this year’s Alzheimer’s walk, and hosted a dance October 23 in order to raise more money for the cause.
The Alzheimer’s Association hosted The Walk to End Alzheimer’s October 4, at Calf Pasture beach in Norwalk, Connecticut. The walk consisted of  2,040 registered walkers from 225 teams. The Alzheimer’s Youth Alliance team achieved and surpassed their goal of raising $2,000, as the team raised around $16,000.
In addition to the walk, members of the Alzheimer’s Youth Alliance hosted the Stand for Alzheimer’s teen charity dance, October 23 at the Old Greenwich Civic Center. The members donated the money raised from the tickets to the Alzheimer’s Association. 
These girls work in collaboration with members from other local schools, including Greenwich Academy, Brunswick School, and Greenwich High School.
“The Alzheimer’s Youth Alliance of Greenwich is a good way to help the community and make an impact, but still have fun and meet new people,” Ava said.

Sacred Heart track and field team sporting their purple accessories for Alzheimer's awareness . Courtesy of Helen Rail '17
Sacred Heart track and field team sporting their purple accessories for Alzheimer’s awareness .
Courtesy of Helen Rail ’17

Last spring, Brunswick, Greenwich Academy, Greenwich High School, and Sacred Heart had different sports teams wear various purple accessories during their games in order to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s.
The Youth Alliance’s mission statement is to “raise awareness surrounding the Alzheimer’s Association, Connecticut Chapter through teen-sponsored events and community outreach,” according to
The Alzheimer’s Youth Alliance not only hosts events, but also participates in volunteer work. Members volunteer monthly at the River House Adult Day Center in Cos Cob, Connecticut to visit Alzheimer’s patients. Volunteers receive the opportunity to interact with patients and learn more about them. 
What I hope to communicate to other girls at Sacred Heart is that Alzheimer’s is an important issue we should be aware of even when we are so young, and that it is crucial to spread this information within our families and communities,” Ava said.
Ava volunteers once a month at the River House Adult Day Center and plans events to raise money for the Youth Alliance. The Youth Alliance is an important part of Ava, Morgan and Helen’s daily lives. They hope to found an Alzheimer’s Youth Alliance Club at Sacred Heart next year to spread awareness of Alzheimer’s throughout the Sacred Heart student body.
Students can help the Alliance by raising awareness about Alzheimer’s disease and attending fundraising events. The Alzheimer’s Youth Alliance of Greenwich is open to new members. Students interested in joining can contact Ava Vanech at [email protected] for more information.
– Pau Barbosa, Staff Writer