NORTHPORT, New York, July 31
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
Bryan Proctor knows what it feels like to watch a loved one suffer from a terrible disease – but he also knows how to stand up and fight it alongside them.
In 2003, the Northport native looked on as the devastating effects of Alzheimer’s disease took over the life of his grandfather, Albert Rivoire. Proctor, a Harborfields High School graduate then studying at SUNY Cortland, came home for the summer to find that his grandfather could no longer live independently and was forced to move from North Carolina back to Long Island so that he could be with his family.
In that same summer, an idea struck Proctor.
Sitting atop a lifeguard tower looking out across Northport Bay from Asharoken Beach, the now 30-year-old bet that he could swim across the bay to Knollwood Beach in Huntington. He did it; and the Distant Memories Swim was born.
“I swam the first long distance Distant Memories Swim to raise awareness for Alzheimer’s disease which impacts over 55,000 families here on Long Island,” Proctor writes on the swim’s website. “It is estimated that 14-16 million of today’s baby boomers will have Alzheimer’s disease… We must find a way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease now, before the damage begins.”
Entering its 11th year on July 23, 50 swimmers took the same 3.5-mile plunge that Proctor took on that fateful day back in 2003. The swimmers – along with some kayakers – swam with thoughts of loved ones affected by Alzheimer’s disease in their minds. Others swam to raise money to fight the disease head on. Finishing first was Daphne Hoffman, of Brightwaters.
“Before the swim they go around and ask everyone who they’re swimming for; if they have a relative who is suffering from or has died from Alzheimer’s,” Hank Russell, a spokesman for the swim, said. “[This year] it was a good turnout.”
Since its conception, the Distant Memories Swim reports that it has raised over $100,000. Altogether this year – as of Tuesday – donations have reached $11,123 and are being put toward the Alzheimer’s Disease Resource Center (ADRC) in Bay Shore. Mary Ann Malack-Ragona, executive director and CEO of ADRC, attended the swim last week and spoke of its importance to the resource center as it continues to fight Alzheimer’s disease by providing programs and services for the people affected by the disease and their families.
“Thank you to all of this year’s participants, volunteers and sponsors,” reads the Distant Memories website. “Without you the swim would not have had this much success.”
Originally published: Long Islander News: The Record (Thursday, July 31, 2014; A2)