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 Alzheimer’s Brain Ball is Personal for this Year’s Honoree, Fundraiser

I wish that I could just save you

I wish that I could take this fear away that's inside you

Must be a cruel mistake

Nothing you did could deserve this
 
Nothing here makes much sense
 
No one should have to go through this
 
The cure is within our reach
 

God Please Be...

You cannot write emotional lyrics like those above without feeling strongly about the subject of the song, and the cause of that person’s pain. In this case, the cause is Alzheimer’s disease (AD)/dementia research, and the writer is Arnold (Arnie) Whitman, co-chair and founder of Formation Capital, a leading private investment management firm focused on seniors housing and care, post-acute and health care real estate investments.

The subject of his song, “The Cure is Within our Reach,” is Whitman’s now-deceased mother, who suffered from AD/dementia and passed 13 years ago. Even though he is a self-described amateur musician who favors the writing part of making music, Whitman not only penned the tribute as an ode to his mother and all those with the disease, but recorded the piece for use as part of a multi-media presentation at the Fourth Annual Brain Ball in Washington, D.C., on May 5.

Whitman is the national honoree at the ball, which raised more than $3 million in 2016 expressly to fund improved treatments and a possible cure for AD/dementia. The event and concurrent crowdfunding effort is the Alzheimer’s Association’s largest annual fundraiser effort, and as honoree it is Whitman’s job to inspire donations and raise awareness of what he says is the cruelest of diseases by robbing not only the victim of their life, but their loved ones of the person they knew so well.

How he came to get involved deeply with the Brain Ball, and eventually write his tribute song, is a story that began rather recently. “My first exposure was last year when Tom DeRosa [chief executive officer of the Welltower real estate investment trust company] was honored. And being a close partner to them they reached out to us and got us involved, both Formation Capital and me personally,” Whitman says.

In raising funds for the ball, and being named the 2017 national honoree, the relationship with AD/dementia research only grew. Whitman says despite some early concerns about having enough time to lead the fundraising charge, and lacking in experience in doing so, it soon became clear that the opportunity to give back overwhelmed any reticence.

“It really gave me a chance to think of it [being the national honoree] in the context of my mother who suffered from the disease and dementia. I thought this is an opportunity to both help an organization and really personalize the effort for myself, and pay tribute to my own mother in a way that I thought was really powerful and really important,” he says.

And even though he is not experienced in reaching out to others to raise funds, the Brain Ball is important enough that “I thought the industry could get behind it as well,” Whitman adds.

As for the song, it is a second such experience in the musical field. “I happen to be a bit of a closeted singer-songwriter. I always wanted to do something with it, but never did,” he says. “But a year ago my daughter got married, and I used that as a chance to create an audio-visual dedication to her. It turned out extraordinarily well and powerful, so I decided that I would do the same for my mother and this event.”

Whitman hopes the song serves to not only express the pain that a family experiences when a loved one is stricken with AD/dementia, but also offer hope that better days are ahead with more research.

“The ‘God Please Be’ lyric is meant to be about a cure being within reach. There is hope, and I want to take advantage of that spirit of hope to unify people around that to try to come to better treatments and find a solution and cure for this disease,” he says.

The Brain Ball also is intended to raise awareness as well as money. “The amount of awareness is as important as the money raised. … I think these are important elements to bring to the front of consciousness on how important this disease is, especially for people in our business,” Whitman says. As many providers have created economic success stories, it is unique to long term care that monetary success is only part of the story.

“A lot of people have done well, and do well, and treat people well. We are in a business that can create value socially and economically, and I think that is an important dynamic for me and my attraction to this as a business, and therefore also a responsibility,” he says.

If you would like to attend the Brain Ball, which will feature the musician Ben Rector as entertainment, go to www.alznca.org/arnie. To hear Whitman’s song, visit https://soundcloud.com/arnold-whitman/the-cure-is-within-our-reach. To donate to the crowdfunding effort, see https://form.jotform.com/63324842302145.

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