This article was published on The Palm Beach Post "What Gives" philanthropy blog by Susan Miller on Sunday, July 8. She is a journalist who writes about the world of non-profits in Palm Beach County. Please add your comments to her article, if you'd like.
(Also, on July 23 and 24, Anita Mitchell of "Conversations with Anita" will be hosting The Unforgettable Fund on her morning show. If you live in WPB, you can catch the show on Channel 17 at 9:30 a.m. Wahoooo!)
Here's Susan Miller's article:
An unforgettable advocate
By Susan R. Miller | Sunday, July 8, 2007
Many nonprofit organizations are started by people who are touched in some way by an event in their lives.
Such was the case of Patty Doherty, a Palm Beach Gardens graphic designer whose father was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 1994. He died 11 years later and the seeds of her advocacy were born.
She rallied her big, Irish family and their friends and within four months started The Unforgettable Fund, an Internet-based, not-for-profit organization.
What makes the fund unique is that proceeds go directly to scientists at Scripps Florida who are trying to unravel the mystery of the disease and find a cure.
It’s been a year since Patty got The Unforgettable Fund off the ground and in that time she’s raised $21,000.
While it may not sound like a lot, she’s done it without spending a penny of donors’ money. All of her work, and the work of others, are donated.
Every dollar raised goes to Alzheimer’s Research at Scripps Florida.
Money is raised by word-of-mouth. She started an e-mail campaign called “The Fighting 22” in which family members each asked 22 others to donate and to ask others to do the same.
Her board includes Dr. Malcolm Lessring, a Harvard Medical School-trained scientist who runs his own lab at Scripps Florida. Their relationship has become symbiotic. For Leissring, it has meant a new money source at a time when finding funding for medical research is an uphill struggle.
Patty recently e-mailed me and sent me a 20-page document she’s had to fill out for the IRS as she attempts to get nonprofit status.
Unlike so many nonprofits, hers’ spends nothing - not on marketing, not on office space, not on salaries, not on fundraising. As Patty told the IRS in her responses to their questions: “Spending $80,000 to raise $100,000 is not the method we employ.”
As Patty plans for the future, she’s got some interesting fundraising ideas such as running profiles on her website of those who have donated and creating web-based events such as a virtual garden where digital flowers can be purchased for a donation.
At a time when reliance on government funding of nonprofits is endangered and grants for medical research are being cut, Patty has some interesting concepts that others in the nonprofit world might look to.
By Mona Johnson, The Tangled Neuron
July 9, 2007 8:00 AM
If all of us with family members suffering with Alzheimer’s and other dementias turned our grief and frustration into action the way Patty has, we’d be much closer to a cure. Involving people with dementia and their families more directly in research and education will result in better prevention, treatment and care at a lower cost.
By Kimberly Mitchell
July 9, 2007 8:06 AM
First, thank you to Susan Miller for sharing this story of a growing problem and an amazing woman, Patty Doherty. I am a friend and supporter of her efforts and will continue to do whatever she asks me to do to help.
The helplessness families struggle through with this horrific disease, Alzheimer’s, is something everyone in our community must take note of and do something about. Yes, we have lots of causes to involve ourselves in. Yes, we have people who ask for support for those causes. But to me, Patty has laid out a footprint, with substantial, next-door researchers, we could all wrap our hearts and wallets around.
Although it was a rough start getting them here, I am so proud to live in a community where Scripps Research decided to add to their mission for things like Alzheimer’s research.
Bravo, Patty, for connecting that personal dot.
By Jackie Seymour
July 9, 2007 10:36 AM
Thank you so much for posting Patty’s story. She truly is an amazing woman with an incredible passion for helping the helpless.
AD took a huge chunk out of our families heart, time and resources. We did our best everyday to bring comfort to my father by attending to his daily needs, but in the background, always the thought of hopelessness was there because there is no cure. He was only getting worse, every day, week after week, year after year.
ALthough the disease felt hopeless, our love and efforts to make things better gave us hope. We even found many hours of laughter at our ridiculous ideas to make sense of all the madness that was happening.
I believe that in the future more and more families will be affected and by then, their time will be too late, as was ours.
Today is the day we can do something about it and we have the resources and the strength right here in Palm Beach County with Scripps. So now, we just need others to help us, and in the long run really help themselves and there own families.
This disease is not going away and it feels like it is only getting bigger.
There is only one woman in the world like Patty Doherty, but we can be little Patties and all make a difference by giving what we can.
We get in small checks, written by shaky, frail hands of old women who are the primary caregivers of their husbands who don’t even know them anymore.
Each day we have 24 hours to make a difference for our future. Be a Patty!
By Barbara Reuther
July 9, 2007 11:19 AM
Thanks for telling this story. More people need to hear it. People need to know how important it is to participate - to make a difference - to help change the course of this disease.
July 9, 2007 12:39 PM
What a great inspiration Patty is for all of us. Thank you PBPost and Susan Miller for taking the time to highlight someone who is making such an amazing difference! I would like to give to the Unforgettable Fund. Where do I send my check and whom do I make it payable to? Keep up the great work, Patty.
July 9, 2007 12:43 PM
Click on the blue link on this page that says “Unforgettable Fund” and it will take you directly to Patty’s web site.
By Larry Fisher
July 11, 2007 8:46 AM
Alzheimers is a cruel terrible disease that takes as heavy a toll on the survivors as on the victim. Patty and her family are doing a great job of educating folks and directly fighting the disease. Makes you wonder why organizations like the United Way and others have expenses in the millions. Maybe more “non-profits” need to follow Patty’s example of contributing 100% of their contributions to the actual work of the charity! Thanks for giving the Unforgettable Fund such positive coverage.