Usually telling someone to go jump in the lake is a gruff way of saying ‘get lost, stop bothering me’. But to a group known as the Subzero Heroes, that phrase has an entirely different meaning; one they take literally and indeed do just that. And they do it to raise money for the Hudson Valley chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.
On Saturday, despite the frigid weather, a large number of these Heroes voluntarily jumped into Berean Lake in Highland as a fundraiser to fight Alzheimer’s. The money will be used to assist people suffering from the disease and their families who live in Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster and Westchester counties. It will also be used to fund research to find ways to slow the progression of the disease and hopefully lead to its eventual eradication.
Lauren Voorhees is the Event Manager for the jump.
“The Subzero Heroes is a stand alone event and our chapter is the only one that does this in the country. This year is our 10th anniversary [in Highland] and we’re over $104,000, which is amazing,” she said. “We have respite care and all sorts of programs available to families and their caregivers.”
David Sobel, Executive Director of the Hudson Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, also took the plunge.
“We had more than 85 brave souls jump into the icy cold lake,” he said. “I jumped in as well; I’ve got to lead by example. I don’t like it but I do it because there are so many people out there living with Alzheimer’s every day...for me to jump into the water is the smallest thing and is no big deal compared to the people living with Alzheimer’s, their caregivers and their families.”
Sobel said they receive “tremendous” support from the Town of Lloyd Police, the Ulster County Firefighters, the Ulster County Sheriff’s Office, the Ulster County Dive Team and Mobile Life Support Services to put on this annual event.
“We really appreciate being able to use this beautiful lake and facility to raise money and we can keep raising money right up through June, just go to www.subzeroheroes.org,” he said.
Last year Sobel spoke about a promising new drug for Alzheimer’s patients but lingers in the planning/development stage.
“This particular drug, BAN 2401, is supposed to minimize amyloid in the brain, which they think causes Alzheimer’s,” he said.
According to Alzheimer’s News Today, abnormal levels of beta-amyloid, a naturally occurring protein, clump together to form plaques that collect between neurons and disrupts communication between brain cells and may cause inflammation that causes cell death.
Sobel said the number of Alzheimer’s cases is growing.
“Presently, there are 5.7 million living with the disease in the United States and that is scheduled to triple by 2050. Until we find the cause for this disease or a cure or a way to slow the progression, there is no stopping it right now, unfortunately.”
Sobel said because of tireless advocacy, the Alzheimer’s Association has received support from New York State and also funding through the federal National Institutes Of Health [NIH]. He said about 5 years ago Alzheimer’s funding received $400 million annually and today that number has jumped to $2.8 billion, “because everyone is realizing that this is an epidemic. This is something that is not only affecting families throughout the country and throughout the world, but it’s the most expensive disease in the United States and if it keeps going the way it will bankrupt Medicare and Medicaid. This is an issue that lawmakers are really paying attention to and saying this is something we really need to put NIH funds into so we can figure out a cause and a cure.”
Ulster County Sheriff Juan Figueroa participated for the 2nd time at this year’s event, continuing a tradition that was started by his predecessor. Alzheimer’s touches close to home as Figueroa’s Aunt Lydia was affected by the disease that eventually claimed her life.
“She was one of the smartest people that I remember growing up with and to see her go through that was absolutely terrible. I have two other aunts going through it right now, all on my mother’s side of the family,” he said. “I’ve seen it first-hand and that’s why I am a big supporter of this event.”
Highland Firefighter Jimmy Anzalone and his Team Ulster County Firemen, raised $19,845 that made them the 1st Place fundraising winners for 2020. He has participated in this event for 9 years and raised $13,945 himself of their total for this year.
Anzalone said his team consisted of firefighters from Centerville Ceder Grove that took in $1,175, Milton Fire Department at $600 and Leslie Benson and others from the Highland Ladies Auxiliary raised $2,030. He gave a special thank you to his young nephew Luke Auchmoody who raised $1,240 by himself and was one of the youngest jumpers.
“He went around the neighborhood and he called relatives in Florida to donate to him. He was on the phone calling, even today, so God bless him and kudos to him,” Anzalone said.
Anzalone said his aunt Janet Litts and Linda Auchmoody have been affected by ALZ but this year he is jumping for Mary Gardner, who is suffering from dementia.
“Anything you needed done in Highland Mary was always on top of it and she always got it done,” Auchmoody said, adding that after a recent visit, “It kind of gave me a drive to keep going and get more money. I whispered in her ear, Aunt Mary we’re doing this for you.”