Cheesecake Battle: Unique fundraising helps raise awareness about Alzheimer’s

Well, that was a tasty way to raise money for a good cause!

The Senior Health Advisors group hosted a Cheesecake Battle fundraiser on April 16th at the Ocala Downtown Market. Proceeds benefitted the Walk to End Alzheimer’s, which will take place September 28th at Citizens’ Circle in downtown Ocala.

Celebrity judges for the event included radio personality Lewis Stokes, 93.7 K-Country; Sheriff Billy Woods; Dr. Tina Chandra, Chandra Smile Designs; Tom James, Ocala Metro Chamber & Economic Partnership; First Finds Farm owner Tami Bobo; and Christine Blum, Right At Home.

There were 31 entries in the competition. The winners were: Grand Champion, TimberRidge Health and Rehabilitation; second place, Aspire at Arbor Springs; third place, Wolfy’s Restaurant; Best Homemade Cheesecake, Avante of Ocala; Most Creative Booth, Superior Residence of Cala Hills; and People’s Choice, Senior Helpers.

To learn more about how the event came about, we talked with Kerry Eck, who is with Gentiva Hospice, was a lead organizer of the battle and is executive chair of the 2024 Walk to End Alzheimer’s in Ocala; and Michelle Decker, Senior Director, Walk to End Alzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s Association-Central and North Florida.

“Senior Health Advisors is a group of like-minded healthcare professionals from the whole spectrum of healthcare in Marion County. The tag line of our logo and our mission is Connect, Collaborate and Coordinate Care,” Eck explains. “We work together to see that our senior population gets the right and appropriate care through connecting the right resources, collaborating on what would be the best course of action and helping coordinate that care so the patient gets the help they need.”

As for how they came up with the idea for the fundraiser, Eck notes that a member of the advisors “proudly declared that she makes the best cheesecake in all of the land. We said prove it!”

“And in that competitive spirit the Cheesecake Battle was dreamed up,” he offers. “We had our first Cheesecake Battle in 2020, just weeks before COVID-19 shut down the nation. While it was quite a bit smaller, we set our goals on a much bigger battle: more participants and more monies raised for a cause. In 2020, we raised money for the American Heart Association. This year our FUNdraising goals were higher, and we wanted to make the Cheesecake Battle even bigger.”

He stresses that all proceeds from the event, from ticket sales to entry fees, will go to the Alzheimer’s Association.

“Monies are still coming in,” he reports the day after the event, “and as of now it looks like $10,500.”

Decker says the Walk to End Alzheimer’s is the world’s largest event to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer’s care, support and research.

“Events are held annually in more than 600 communities across the country,” she outlines. “Participants are encouraged to raise critical funds that allow the Alzheimer’s Association to provide 24/7 care and support and advance research towards methods of prevention, treatment and, ultimately, a cure. The walk has been taking place in Ocala/Marion County for more than 12 years.”

Decker says it was important that the Cheesecake Battle helped create awareness and raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association Central & North Florida Chapter.

“According to a recent report from the Alzheimer’s Association, Florida ranks #2 in the U.S. for the number or people living with Alzheimer’s. In Marion County alone, more than 12,000 residents age 65+ are estimated to be living with the disease,” she states. “Statewide, more than 840,000 Floridians are serving as unpaid family caregivers to a loved one with Alzheimer’s.”

Eck says the Senior Health Advisors group also does other events, such as a Back-to-School backpack drive, a Toys for Tots collection and food collections.

“While our main goal is the senior population of Marion County, we recognize that the engine that helps drive the support for this population also has needs that we can help with,” he notes. FUNdraising can happen all year round. Find your passion and make that into a fundraiser.”

He shares that after the Cheesecake Battle he plans to have a Trivia for the Cause night at Hiatus Brewery, also to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.

“I love trivia and love the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association. It’s a win/win,” he enthuses. “And if fundraising isn’t your thing, then Alzheimer’s awareness and advocacy cost nothing.”

He adds, however, “Gather your friends. Form a walk team. Be there September 28th.”

To register a team for the walk, go to alz.org/ocalawalk or email kerry.eck@gentivahs.com

To learn more about the Alzheimer’s Association, go to alz.org or call the 24/7 Helpline at (800) 272-3900. 

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