“Every time we visit, her eyes light up. It is the happiest moment of her day. We can’t wait until the next time!” SPARK! is aptly described above by the daughter and care partner of one our regular participants. The program is designed for people with early to mid-stage memory loss and their care partners. SPARK! was originally inspired by the Meet Me at MOMA program, a successful outreach effort at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The program has branched out, and SPARK! Milwaukee is a cooperative venture between Schlitz Audubon, the Alzheimer’s Association of Southeastern Wisconsin, and more than 20 museums, nature centers, and cultural organizations in our region. The goals are to promote healthy aging, engagement and socialization, and provide joyful experiences to this growing population. Alzheimer’s disease alone affects more than 5 million Americans, impacts more that 15 million care partners, and is the sixth leading cause of death in the nation.
Creating Memories for Participants and Caregivers
The focus of every SPARK! program is to kindle joyful experiences while living in the moment and inspiring creative expression through engaging the senses. Nature has an incredible capacity to enrich our lives and provide meaning and substance. It has the ability to heal, teach, and guide. While it cannot cure or reverse the progress of memory loss, nature experiences provide both short and long-term benefits for everyone. Our SPARK! program is filled with joy and laughter, music and song, learning and sharing. Whether the memory of a visit to Schlitz Audubon remains with someone for a moment or a year, our goal is for that memory to bring a smile to the face of all participants.
“Every time we visit, her eyes light up. It is the happiest moment of her day. We can’t wait until the next time!”
One common thread throughout the network is that SPARK! Milwaukee programs are free for families to attend together in a safe and comfortable environment. Financial support from Bader Philanthropies, Inc. empowered us to begin our program in October 2016. All SPARK! facilitators have been trained by the Alzheimer’s Association or the local Aging & Resource Disability Centers and collaborate with community partners and professionals to continually enhance programming.
Join us for SPARK!
Our SPARK! program meets the second Tuesday of the month from September through June at 1:00pm – 2:30pm in the Auditorium. Other SPARK! Milwaukee partners design their classes to be offered on various days and times to encourage attendance at multiple locations. Aside from nature, something additionally unique to Schlitz Audubon is that we promote inter-generational learning by inviting our Nature Preschool students to collaborate with SPARK! participants during programs.
Sometimes, the results are completely unexpected and move beyond the scope of a single program. One of our first SPARK! participants has become a weekly volunteer in the Great Hall, introducing visitors to live animals such as snakes. So the next time you visit, say hello and look for the SPARK-le in the eye of someone who has much to share with you.