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Kathleen Kammerer Honored At Friendship Circle Luncheon

Kathleen Kammerer from Massapequa Park recently received the Caregiver Award at the Sid Jacobson Jewish Community Center’s 10th annual Friendship Circle Luncheon, witnessed by more than 500 fashionably dressed women at the Garden City Hotel. Notable celebrities on hand were Good Day New York cohost Rosanna Scotto, who was also the event’s emcee, and singer/actress Megan Hilty from the Broadway play Wicked and NBC’s hit drama Smash, who entertained the ladies with her favorite songs from both shows.

The Friendship Circle Luncheon was started 10 years ago by Denise Silverberg, as a way to raise money for programs providing support to adults in their 30s, 40s, and 50s afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease. Silverberg’s mother has the disease, so she knows all too well how difficult the role of caregiver can be, as well as the stresses involved in caring for someone suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Honorees of the luncheon included Howard Kroplick, board member of the Sid Jacobson JCC, who was instrumental in providing seed money to help fund the “Let’s Do Lunch” Program. A resident of East Hills, he retired in 2008 as president and founder of The Impact Group, a leading medical communications company, and is the town historian of North Hempstead.

Kammerer’s husband, Brian, was diagnosed with Young Onset Alzheimer’s disease at age 42 in 2001. At the time, the MBA from St. John’s University, worked as a chief financial officer on Wall Street. When Kammerer, a SUNY Albany graduate, spoke at the luncheon, she recalled a phone call she received from her husband one morning.

“He said, ‘I’m holding a skinny metal object, I don’t know what it is. I don’t remember what to do with it.’ It was a stapler. My heart sank,” she said. Kathleen knew her husband could no longer work and she became the sole support for her husband and three children, Patrick, Colleen, and Kate, who were 10, 9, and 8 at the time.

Brian is now 55, lives at home and has no idea who his wife and children are. Given the trials and tribulations she faces in this extremely difficult situation, Kathleen Kammerer has high praise for the JCC. “They have meant the world to me, they take care of him during the day and give me piece of mind. He is at the center all week, going to day care,” she explained. “The JCC has programs for me, providing spousal support and the children also have a program where they meet up with other [kids] who are experiencing the same situation, so it’s a tremendous help. This has been his home for 10 years.”

Kammerer regrets that her children never got to know their father and have missed out on so many events, but lauds praise on the JCC and its wonderful and caring staff that have made such a difference in their lives.

Most people assume that Alzheimer’s disease affects only the elderly, which is not true. More young adults are being diagnosed with the disease and the JCC is one of the few programs in the country that offers support for those family members going through this process.

Symbolic of The Friendship Circle Luncheon is the yellow rose, which signifies joy and happiness, and is used to embrace new beginnings. Each table had centerpieces of yellow roses. Funds were raised not only through the luncheon, but also through a silent auction and raffle with products donated from the business community.

To learn more about the programs at the Sid Jacobson JCC for Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other related diseases, as well as programs for their family and caregivers, visit www.sjjcc.org or call 516-484-1585.