For Chad Diaz II, Alzheimer’s is more than just a disease: It’s a part of his life.
When Diaz was 13, his grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. As the disease progressed, Diaz spent more time with his grandfather, watching him long for past days. Diaz said the disease was frustrating for both of them.
“We were always in a constant circle of being reminded how different our respective worlds had become,” Diaz said.
Other students like Diaz have been affected by the disease. Business students Kristine Bishop, Monique Ma and Mason Ross have a personal connection to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia and joined Diaz to create Memories by Hand. The organization runs a campaign selling hand-painted pottery created by participants of local program Memory Makers.
Memory Makers serves as a place where people in the early to middle stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia can socialize and get creative while simultaneously giving their caregivers a break to rest and tend to personal needs.
“It gives the participant the opportunity to feel normal for a few hours each day,” Diaz said.
Memory Makers began in 2010, after a local caregiver support meeting showed a large need in Oxford for a program that would give caregivers a respite.
As part of a social entrepreneurship assignment for professor Clay Dibrell’s entrepreneurship course in the business program, the Memories by Hand team had to set financial goals for the project.
While its initial campaign is over, the team recently surpassed its intended fundraising goal.
“Our goal was to raise at least $1,000 over 30 days for Memory Makers,” Diaz said. “We were able to raise 115 percent of that goal.”
The group took to Twitter to spread awareness for its cause and to garner more interest, earning retweets from influential people in the community, such as Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter. It set up an information booth during events at the Ford Center to gain publicity, in addition to selling pottery and days of care.
“Days of care allowed the community to pay for the equivalent of one hour to up to one month of care for a Memory Makers participant,” Diaz said.
Memory Makers costs $20 each day, and Diaz said the proceeds will go toward any needs Memory Makers has.
“Memory Makers depends heavily on the generosity of individual donors and community partners for funding, so these projects are a tremendous help to us,” program director Julia Burnett said.
Other on-campus groups have donated both money and time to the organization. It serves as Alpha Delta Pi’s local philanthropy, and Alpha Kappa Psi Business Fraternity recently raised funds for the organization. Other students volunteer to get community service hours for classes.
Senior social work major Keller Poore began working with Memory Makers last school year. This semester, she volunteered as a requirement for her gerontology class, an elective dedicated to studying the aging process.
At Memory Makers, she has lent a hand to everything from helping prepare meals to escorting participants to a baseball game on a double-decker bus.
“As a volunteer, your job is to interact with the participants and help them if they need anything,” she said. “You also assist with games and crafts.”
Poore said she hopes her volunteer experience will help her future career in social work. However, Memory Makers means more to Poore than just an obligation for class. It is now part of her daily routine, as she volunteers at Memory Makers nearly every day.
“It is my way to give back to the generations that were before me,” she said. “It is one of the best parts of my week because I get to see all of the participants’ smiling faces.”