ATLANTIC CITY — The isolation created by the COVID-19 pandemic has perhaps taken the greatest toll on the elderly and people with dementia — and with pandemic restrictions largely lifted, people are racing to show them support.
The Simon & Sylvia Zisman Seashore Gardens Living Center, a nonprofit senior community in Galloway Township, hosted its 12th annual 5K Run & Walk on Sunday to raise money for its Alzheimer’s disease and dementia programs.
The race was held on the Boardwalk, starting and finishing at the Stockton University Atlantic City campus. Like many other springtime races, it was the first time the race was held in three years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, having been held virtually in 2020 and 2021.
There were about 275 participants running and walking in the race, and dozens of volunteers and spectators. Michael Weinraub, the vice president of the Seashore Gardens Board of Directors and a participant in the race Sunday, said the turnout was the highest it has been in its 12-year history, surpassing the 230 who ran and walked in 2019.
People are also reading…
“It’s great to see everybody out here,” Weinraub said. “It’s all, of course, to benefit the Alzheimer’s unit/program at Seashore Gardens.”
Many of the participants at the race were there because of their interest in helping the community, often thinking of their own loved ones who have had dementia.
Patrick Sterr, of Egg Harbor Township, was walking with his family for his mother, who has dementia and Alzheimer’s and was out walking with them. He said he was happy to see members of the community turn out for an important cause.
“Especially with people who brought their kids, and all their families, it’s good to see the support,” Sterr said.
The winner of the 5K was Colten Angellotti, a 40-year-old who lives in Voorhees, Camden County, and is from Hawaii. Angellotti, who said he broke his personal record at the race, said that his grandfather had suffered from dementia, as well as family members of his wife. He was planning to run in a race to benefit the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, where his son goes to receive treatment for a heart condition.
Angellotti said his own health had been affected by addiction when he was younger and that “running saved (his) life.” He said he feels a calling to run for the health and lives of others.
“I feel like helping people help people is my dream now,” Angellotti said, noting that he was currently trying to fundraise for a family that could not afford a new refrigerator. “From where I’m from, Hawaii, it’s all about ohana (family in Hawaiian) and then it trickles down from there.”
Amy Balash, 44, from Elmira Heights, New York, finished first among women running Sunday. She said that she was preparing for a marathon she was running in two weeks and wanted to come to the Jersey Shore for her daughter’s dance competition. She was also thankful the race was for a good cause, recalling her grandmother who had Alzheimer’s.
“I was just looking for something down here, and I saw this, and I was like, ‘Oh, I have to do it,’” Balash said.
Several organized groups got together to run or walk Sunday. The Atlantic/Cape May County subchapter of the Philippine Nurses Association of New Jersey Inc. had about a dozen nurses from different South Jersey hospitals participate in the 5K. Yvonne Jocson, a nurse at AtlantiCare, said she and her colleagues were excited to sign up.
“We wanted to join and have some fun, walking around and taking in the freshness of the breeze while supporting Seashore Gardens,” Jocson said.
Other groups returned to show their support, including Because Betty Did, Rehab Heart and Sole, Team Marascio, “Roth-Goldstein” and Lois’ Rosebuds.
Seashore Gardens offers several living options for seniors, including short-term rehabilitation, assisted living, long-term care, and independent living. Its Alzheimer’s Memory Care services offers those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia a safe neighborhood and engaging activities.
Sharon D’Angio, the Seashore Gardens director of donor services, said the money raised from the race would help fund outreach to people who are showing signs of dementia, as well as activities for residents with dementia. Seashore Gardens will also use funds to enhance the memory-care program’s sensory garden. Such efforts are especially important given the need for patients to reengage with the world after long periods of isolation.
“These people really need us,” D’Angio said. “There’s just so much sorrow in this disease, (that) to have a really great event, that we’re doing something really fun and walking by the ocean, it’s wonderful.”
Molly Golubcow, who ran in the 5K, is an author who hosted a reading of her book about growing up in Atlantic City for Seashore Gardens residents and is a previous Seashore Gardens employee. Now living in Ventnor, Golubcow said she was happy to have another opportunity to give back to the nonprofit community.
“It’s a big reunion kind of thing, and I like the idea of all of us chipping in,” Golubcow said.
The run Sunday marked the first time the run was held outside Stockton, after having been held outside Tropicana Atlantic City. Brian Jackson, the chief operation officer for the Stockton Atlantic City campus, said the university was eager to help with this community. He said the university had a longstanding relationship with Seashore Gardens and noted that Stockton students, staff and administrators had turned out for the event, including himself.
“There was just this great synergy to be able to kick it off here in front of our campus,” Jackson said.
Chris Catching, Stockton’s vice president of student affairs, also participated in the run, saying it was important for the university to aid the work of other local organizations in Atlantic City.
“Part of our partnership here at Stockton is to work with the community, our community partners here, to support the things they’re doing,” Catching said.
Along with Stockton, several other organizations turned out to support the run. Brooke Erin Feldman, who is Miss Atlantic County 2022, was a volunteer for the event Sunday, helping recruit volunteers and participants for the race. With helping seniors part of her Miss America year-of-service platform for the Miss America Organization, Feldman said she wanted to make a special effort to help Seashore Gardens. She said that helping the elderly was especially important given the paucity of social interaction available to them during the pandemic.
“During the pandemic, it was such an isolating time for them, and now they need our support more than ever,” Feldman said.