By BOB GOETZ
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — One year later, John Konowitz is still amazed at the overwhelming generosity shown by the North Country for the First-Annual Alzheimer’s Awareness Basketball Tournament.
“We thought we might raise $5,000 and we ended up getting $16,200, which the Massachusetts General Hospital matched for Alzheimer’s research,” the longtime coach related with glistening eyes.
“The response from the school administrators, sponsors, athletic directors, coaches, players, support staff, faculty, referees and people in the North Country was staggering.
“It wasn’t the money so much, but all of the people. It blew us away and was very humbling. It was not something you can ever prepare for.”
The sense of community and compassion are evident once again as Konowitz prepares for the second fundraiser to be held this week. And, if early commitments are an indication, the North Country should easily outdo last year’s level of giving. Nearly $10,000 has been raised with well over 100 businesses and individuals making monetary or prize donations to be raffled during the four days.
“A lot of money is raised during the games, especially with the raffles,” Konowitz said.
The girls’ tournament will be Tuesday and Wednesday at Elizabethtown-Lewis Central. Ticonderoga will take on Westport at 5:30 p.m. followed by Schroon Lake and Elizabethtown-Lewis at 7 p.m. The consolation and championship games will be Wednesday at the same times.
The boys’ tournament will be Thursday and Friday at Moriah Central School. Ticonderoga and Elizabethtown-Lewis will open at 5:30 p.m. followed by Moriah and Willsboro at 7 p.m. The consolation and championship games will be Friday at the same times.
This year, all proceeds will benefit the Alzheimer’s Centers in Elizabethtown and Saranac Lake.
“Our goal this year is to keep the money local,” Konowitz added.
Dementia is a loss of brain function that occurs with certain diseases. Alzheimer’s disease (AD), is one form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior.
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death among the top 10 in the United States that cannot be prevented, cured or even slowed, according to the Alzheimer’s Organization. The disease affects 5.4 million Americans and more than 15 million Americans provide unpaid care valued at $210 billion for persons with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
“Just about everyone you come in contact with has a mother, an aunt or uncle, a brother or sister suffering from Alzheimer’s,” said Konowitz, whose wife, Judy, was diagnosed with the disease seven years ago..
“That’s why so many people respond so enthusiastically. Everybody can’t do enough. People jump at the chance to donate time or money,” he continued.
“The first night last year, all the little girls in E’town were wearing t-shirts that said “Stomp out Alzheimer’s,” And a lot of people went down to the games, even though they didn’t have anyone playing.”
There is a long list of prizes to be raffled throughout the two tournaments. It includes tickets to a Villanova-Syracuse University basketball game at the Carrier Dome and tickets to the Saints-Giants game at The Meadowlands.
“Believe it or not, the biggest raffle item last year was a chainsaw donated by Adirondack Hardware,” Konowitz recalled. “We have another one for this year and a lot of people are looking forward to that drawing.”
The tournaments will also provide 120 t-shirts for the players, with the sponsors listed on the back.
“It’s just a great time and to see these communities turn out like they do is something,” Konowitz continued. “It’s nice to see the rivalries between the communities, but it’s something to see how they come together to support such a great cause.”