I’d like to introduce you to a young man that’s doing some incredible work in his home state of Massachusetts, as well as throughout the entire country. Max Wallack, currently a junior in high school, lives near our headquarters in Massachusetts. We’ve been working with Max and supporting his organization, PuzzlesToRemember, for the past few years.
Max founded PuzzlesToRemember in 2008, in memory of his great-grandmother, Gertrude Finkelstein, who died of Alzheimer’s disease in 2007. PuzzlesToRemember is a 501(c)3 corporation that provides puzzles to nursing homes, Veterans Administration (VA) facilities, and other facilities that care for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. All the contributions he receives go 100% to buy, ship, and supply puzzles to facilities caring for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. I had a chance to talk with Max about PuzzlesToRemember, and here’s what he has to say:
When and why did you start Puzzles to Remember? I started PuzzlesToRemember in 2008, and it became a 501(c)3 organization in 2009. As a child, I was a caregiver to my great grandmother who had Alzheimer’s disease. Toward the end of her life, she was in and out of Alzheimer’s care units. When I visited, I noticed that doing puzzles made patients appear calmer and more engaged. I researched this and found that engaging in cognitive activities, such as jigsaw puzzles, can even slow down the progression of this disease. In fact, recent research at Rush University shows that remaining cognitively active can postpone the point at which an Alzheimer’s patient is no longer functional in society. Armed with that knowledge, I decided to provide as many puzzles as possible to Alzheimer’s patients.
How has your organization grown since its beginning? In 2009, PuzzlesToRemember became incorporated in Massachusetts and became a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization. By now, I have collected over 6,300 puzzles and distributed them to over 580 facilities across North America. Several organizations such as DoSomething.org, JCPenney, Stop & Shop, Harvard Pilgrim Healthcare, Women in Development of Greater Boston, and the Natick Rotary Club have supplied grants to help with shipping costs.
Where do you see PuzzlesToRemember in the future? Is it something you want to continue to run throughout college? I certainly plan to continue with PuzzlesToRemember until there is a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, I have been working together with groups around the country as well as groups in other countries, such as Australia and Portugal, who are beginning branches of PuzzlesToRemember.
What is the most rewarding part of running a non-profit? The most rewarding part is getting very positive feedback from caregivers and caregiving facilities about how helpful the puzzles have been. Sometimes, when I deliver puzzles personally, I also get the opportunity to do a puzzle with an Alzheimer’s patient, and that is also very rewarding.
Do you have any future initiatives or projects in the works that you can talk about? I am an editor for the AlzheimersReadingRoom.com, the most visited blog on the internet for Alzheimer’s caregivers. I also write frequently for the blog. In 2010, I wrote approximately 50 articles. Last summer, I worked 20 hours per week as a Research Intern at the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center, where I have continued to work ½ day a week throughout the school year. In the summer of 2011, I will be working full-time in the research lab of their geriatric psychiatrist.
What kind of extracurricular activities do you do? Currently, as a junior at Boston University Academy, I take 2 high school courses, and 3 college courses at Boston University. Besides that, I run PuzzlesToRemember, write for the AlzheimersReadingRoom, and work at the Alzheimer’s Disease Center. In addition, I give frequent presentations about PuzzlesToRemember and the benefits of puzzles at schools, churches, rotary groups, etc. I don’t have a great deal of “extra” time, but I also participate in Chorus, Science Team, and Tae Kwon Do.
Have you thought about college and what your major might be? I’m a junior in high school, but I am also taking many courses at Boston University. I plan to be pre-medical, with a major in neuroscience and a minor in classical languages. My goal is to become a geriatric psychiatrist, working with Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers.
I just got an email from Max informing me of this exciting news: “Just over the past month, because of PuzzlesToRemember, I have received the Presidential Youth Service Award (including a letter from President Obama), the Nestle Very Best in Youth Award, and the Community Service Award from the Massachusetts Daughters of the American Revolution.”
Congrats, Max! 🙂 We here at Ceaco puzzles are happy to continue to support Max and PuzzlesToRemember with donations of puzzles. Thanks for all you’re doing!