Brodsky Innovation Grant was awarded for Thelma's Place's Intergenerational Sensory Garden for Alzheimer's patients and children

HERALD PHOTO: CAROL ROSEN - Thelma's Place won the national 2018 Anne and Irving Brodsky grant for their unique Sensory Garden.Thelma's Place has won the national 2018 Anne and Irving Brodsky Innovation Grant.

The Alzheimer's Foundation of America annually awards a $25,000 innovation grant to a nonprofit member organization for a groundbreaking program that improves the lives of Alzheimer's disease and their families.

The award goes to the Canby adult day center for its Intergenerational Sensory Garden, also called The Garden of Life. It is intended to provide opportunities for collaborative interaction between Alzheimer's patients and preschool aged children in a home-like environment.

"Until a cure is found, the need for new, innovative programs that enhance of quality of life for families affected by Alzheimer's disease will continue to grow," Charles Fuschillo Jr. said in a release. He is the president and CEO of AFA.

"Their new, unique Intergenerational Sensory Garden is an interactive program that brings individuals with Alzheimer's disease and children together to stimulate their minds, be creative and enjoy themselves," Fuschillo said.

Bert Brodsky, Alzheimers founder and board chair, noted that when his mother had the disease there weren't any programs or places for support.

"We provide this grant to give others what wasn't available at that time, innovative programs to improve the quality of life for individuals living with Alzheimers disease. And set an example for other organizations to follow," he said.

"Thelma's Place is doing that by providing a place where adults and children can learn, interact and have fun together," Brodsky said. The grant is in honor of Brodsky's parents.

The Alzheimer's day center "is honored to receive this award and to be placed amongst the distinguished ranks of those past honorees who have made important contributions to the Alzheimer's community," said Ellen Coburn, executive director of Thelma's Place.

She thanked the center's founder, Erik Berkey, for his vision that provides respite and now intergenerational services to bridge the gap between young and old in Oregon communities.

"He's made an impact on helping families living with Alzheimer's remain together as long as possible providing supportive services through Thelma's Place," Coburn said.

While the disease's progression can limit people's ability to communicate or perform normal tasks, Coburn noted the garden provides an outlet for expression and interaction with children to explore nature while lifting moods, improving self-esteem and offering a positive impact on their well-being.

The garden offers explorative play and learning space for the tots and a healing and therapeutic environment for seniors. It's filled with opportunities to stimulate the minds of both participants and, according to Coburn, creates a joyful atmosphere. It brings the different ages together at the various sensory garden stations. It offers raised plant beds for the Tasting Garden and wheelchair access to the Sound Garden's musical instruments plus the Observation Garden's displays of nesting sites for birds and insects.

Each station is designed to provide creative expression and relieve stress. It might be through music in the Sound Garden or imagination in the Exploration Garden.

While its aim is to enrich the lives of Alzheimer's patients, it offers caregivers time to themselves for work and to do their business without worry about their family member.

The Alzheimer's Foundation of America is a non-profit organization uniting more than 2,600 member organizations nationally to provide optimal care and services to individuals living with dementia and to their caregivers and families. Services include a toll free helpline at 866-232-8484, staffed by licensed social workers, the National Memory Screening Program, educational conferences and materials and AFA Partners in Care and dementia care training for healthcare professionals.

For more information about AFA, call 866-232-8484, go to, Twitter, Facebook or LinkedIn.

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