The Northern Valley basketball tournament helps in the fight against Alzheimer's


Scientists are reconsidering how they study and review the progressive mental deterioration known in Alzheimer's disease.

Aaron DeNicola was in elementary school and too young to know what dementia meant when her grandmother, Regina, was diagnosed with the memory disorder that years later would have robbed her ability to speak and be independent.

It was more than a decade ago, and since then, DeNicola, who is now 17, has learned about dementia and has taught others about her priorities.

"For me, I did not know what to do to help her, I could not give her a pill, take her to the doctor, there was nothing I could do," he said. "This was a way I could do something."

On Saturday, DeNicola, of Harrington Park, participated in the second annual basketball tournament of the Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan, which he and the school basketball coach Craig Ferraro organized for the chapter of the Alzheimer's Association Greater New Jersey. DeNicola stated that the goal is to raise $ 2,500 from the event. Last year, he said that the event brought about $ 2200.

Aaron DeNicola, 17, of Harrington Park, at a basketball tournament organized to raise awareness and raise funds for Alzheimer's at Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan on January 12, 2019. (Photo: Monsy Alvarado,

Ferraro praised DeNicola for his hard work, and said that the idea for a basketball tournament came after DeNicola gave a talk about Alzheimer's in a health class. He said he struck a deal, since his family was touched by the disease and he thought they would have to organize an event.

Six high school teams have agreed to play and participate. They were Northern Valley Regional in Old Tappan, who played against Pascack Hills Regional; Orange, who played against Wayne Valley and River Dell Regional, who faced against Ridgewood High School.

Ferraro said that when he contacted the coaches, everyone arrived immediately on board and nine referees donated their time.

"The teams were more than willing to come and were enthusiastic about helping out," he said, "it's pretty hard to find families who have not been hit by it."

There are more than 200,000 people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer's in the 14 counties that the Alzheimer's Association of Greater New Jersey serves, which extends from the Ocean Counties to Sussex, has said Robyn Kohn, program manager for the chapter, who participated in the tournament. He said that nationwide there are 5.7 million people living with Alzheimer's.

He said that the work done by DeNicola is necessary and said that sports tournaments bring together the community and families.

"We need more families involved because this affects families," he said.

For the basketball tournament, the corridor near the main entrance to the school was decorated with purple balloons and streamers. Alzheimer's disease Awareness is represented by the purple color. The participants were greeted with a sign that listed several facts about Alzheimer's, including the sixth leading cause of death, and that every 66 seconds someone develops Alzheimer's.

Steve Papa, the athletic trainer of Pascack Hills, who volunteered to participate in one of the games in case someone needed wound care, said his grandfather was diagnosed with the disease years ago.

"I remember seeing him and him who did not recognize who we were," he recalled. "It has been difficult."

The same was true of Gary Maier of Old Tappan, who was sitting in the wooden stands with his wife, Sheila Maier, before the second game between Orange and Wayne Valley. Maier said that his maternal grandmother had dementia.

His wife said that everyone is affected in some way, pointing to the residential facilities for seniors located in many cities that serve people affected by Alzheimer's disease.

"We came to support", he said, "it is a problem that exists in every community".

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