The Alzheimer’s Association knows how devastating a diagnosis of this disease can be, and because of that, event co-chairs Sam Martello, Ann Paras and Jeff Huntsberger led the charge to shake up the organization’s largest annual fundraiser from a rather stately formal dinner, to a lively celebration of hope in the form of a football-themed party.

Our first clue? Patrons gathered at the northeast end of FirstEnergy Stadium, and gaining the proper floor, were greeted by cheerleaders as they entered this tailgate party through a huge arch of purple balloons. About 450 people, in ‘stadium chic’ attire – some in purple (the association’s color), and some in Browns paraphernalia enjoyed pre-dinner cocktails and passed appetizers, while they wandered the club, playing cornhole, picking grab bags and also bottles in a wine pull, bidding on silent auction items, and taking amusing photos with Chomps, the Brown’s energetic mascot.

In keeping with the game theme, the cheerleaders were joined by an outstanding drum line, all from Brush High School, to call patrons in to dinner. Dining room views of Lake Erie off the private club at the stadium are unparalleled, and really wowed guests as they took their seats. A “half-time” show had formal presentations including Rob Durham, president of HKM Direct Market Communications receiving the Champion Award for his tireless contributions to the organization.

“When we were told my dad, George, had Alzheimer’s, we didn’t know what to do,” Durham said in a pre-dinner interview. “We turned to the association. There were free classes and counseling. A doctor at Metro actually made a house call. It was tough on my dad, but even tougher on my mom. It’s an awful disease – it’s a long good bye,” he recalls. “I wanted to give back, but most of all I want us to get out of this business – I want to find a cure. That’s the mission.”

The Alzheimer’s Association’s goal for the Celebration of Hope was to raise $355,000 which goes to support research, as well as local caregiver programs and services. They exceeded their goal by raising $390,000. Hope indeed. STORY AND PHOTOGRAPHS BY RITA KUEBER

Event Co-chairs Sam Martello, Ann Paras and Jeff Huntsberger

Board Chair Bonnie Marcus and Incoming Chair Bob Bazzarelli

Liz and Rob Durham

Tom and Diane Deterlich, Peggy Titterington and Edward Velazquez

Event Co-chairs Sam Martello, Ann Paras and Jeff Huntsberger

Conor Toomey with his mother Eileen Toomey and Gary and Lynne Monda