In a year where so many have been hit financially, and charities have struggled to get donations, the Alzheimer’s Association Hudson Valley Chapter has received $41,810 in donations from Kensico Cemetery in Valhalla.
The cemetery raised the funds primarily through an appeal to previous sponsors of its annual 5K fundraiser to benefit the organization.
“We had talked about the possibility of a virtual event, but we opted not to because we thought what made our 5K run/walk successful was the idea of people gathering on our property, so with that off the table, we decided we would cancel the 5K this year,” said Judith Mitchell, public relations consultant for Kensico Cemetery.
“But we did realize that the Alzheimer’s Association still needed support for research and patient care, so we decided to take a chance and see if our sponsors, who have been so good in the past, could help us raise some money this year anyway.”
“The whole idea in this particular year was to say to folks that we understand the challenge out there and how charities are in a difficult place because they can’t hold events,” said Raymond Planell, president of Kensico Cemetery. “And most of our sponsors who had helped us through the years and our supporters responded very generously. One of the missions of the Alzheimer’s Association is to help people suffering from Alzheimer’s, who are at great risk if they get COVID and are also at risk from the isolation caused by it,”
Planell noted that some sponsors increased their donations this year. Thanks to their help, the cemetery’s long-term fundraising goals for the organization were achieved.
“We wanted to be able to say that at the end of five years that we had contributed $150,000, and we actually made that happen,” Mitchell said.
The relationship between the nonprofit and the cemetery began five years ago, when the Kensico staff looked for an organization to utilize their historic and beautifully landscaped grounds.
“Our thought was that we wanted to open up our property to a charity so that they could conduct a fundraiser on our grounds,” Mitchell said. “So, the question was: Who did we want to partner with? We reached out to the Alzheimer’s Association, since their mission aligned with ours, with us both being in the memory business.”
Around the same time, they were contacted by Jocylen Roberts of Tarrytown, a volunteer and avid runner who had recently lost her grandmother to Alzheimer’s. She helped the fundraiser take shape.
“We were able to draw on her background and participation in lot of runs and walks in the county,” Mitchell said. “She was able to give us some guidance. Then she recruited her mother, Genee Roberts, who is an interior designer and did such a great job with the raffles. She spent hours going to all different kinds of gift stores and boutiques and restaurants gathering gift certificates and then organized them in baskets with a theme. They became a highlight of the event. People looked forward to seeing what the raffle prizes were going to be.”
Mitchell said the partnership was unprecedented for both parties.
“This was a first for Kensico, and I think it was a first for the Alzheimer’s Association,” she said. “In our 150-year history, we had never opened to be used in this way. We wanted to do it in a way that reflected our ideas about hospitality. We opted for a hot catered breakfast to offer everyone along with the raffles. We wanted to distinguish ourself in how we conducted an event to be how we conducted our business.”
Planell, who will soon retire from his role at Kensico, will remain involved as a member of its board of directors. He said the cemetery has a long history of community service.
“Kensico, over the course of many years, has tried to be a good neighbor, a good partner with charities in the area,” Planell said. “We’ve supported many different local organizations. We’ve been very gratified to be involved with the Alzheimer’s Association because of all the good work they do. It’s been a great opportunity to reach out to people who might enjoy a nice event, but obviously there are so many people who have relatives and friends who are affected by Alzheimer’s, and we wanted to continue to make the point that Kensico is here to help those in our neighborhood, and we want to continue efforts to help worthy nonprofits in our area.”
The Alzheimer’s Association’s Hudson Valley Chapter serves families living with dementia in Duchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties. To learn more about the programs and services offered locally, visit alz.org/hudsonvalley.