Rockers raise funds to support local Walk to End Alzheimer's

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Rocking the Halloween fun at the Benton House Rock-a-Thon Oct. 24 are Nancy Rosen of Right at Home, left, and DJ Joni, right, who provided entertainment, enjoying the antics of resident "mummies." Behind DJ Joni is Jason Best, executive pastor of Lowcount

The stage was minus electric guitars, huge amps and big hair but "Monster Mash" and excitement were in the air when residents of Benton House gathered Oct. 24 for a Rock-a-Thon.

The two-hour Halloween-themed special event was a fundraiser for the Alzheimer's Association's annual local Walk to End Alzheimer's. Family members, caregivers, memory care coordinators, sponsors and residents of the senior living community were rocking, alright - on 20 large white rocking chairs encircling the senior living community's sunny front porch.

DJ Joni - a regular Benton House entertainer - stirred the company into hilarity by inspiring dancing, singing, thinking, body movement and laughter with music, games, and a number of sketchy, spooky jokes.

(What does a skeleton order at a restaurant? Spare ribs. What does a witch order in a hotel? Broom service. Does a skeleton eat popcorn with his fingers? No. He eats his fingers separately.)

"When she's here, it's amazing. She affects the physical, emotional, spiritual; she gets them dancing and singing," said Abby Boylston, community relations director. "They may not be very mobile but she gets them to sing a song."

It cost $25 each to sponsor the moving parts of the Rock-a-Thon - the rocking chairs. Lowcountry Community Church, Right at Home, Agape Hospice, Pruitt Home Health, Kindred at Home, Senior Helpers and Benton House sponsored and then decorated the rockers, adorning them with spooky effects, patriotic colors or purple ribbons - the official color of the Alzheimer's movement.

The funds raised from the event, plus raffle tickets sold, raised more than $3,000, doubling last year's efforts.

The rocking good time came on the heels of another community competition that involved everyone who stopped by Benton House. Hoping to break the Guinness Book of World Records, the 23 Benton House senior living communities held a Hug Initiative Oct. 17.

"We totally embraced the hug contest," Boylston said. "Everybody - everybody who came in - the Amazon guy, residents, families, a tour that came to visit. We had hug booths, hug tickets. It was a hug-fest around the community."

Each Benton House facility across the nation was asked to collect (or give out) 1,000 hugs. Bluffton's house did not: It collected 3,478, coming in second behind Augusta, which collected 5,330.

All-in-all, the Benton Houses collected 50,472 hugs in five days - a hit with the residents, staff and guests, if not Guinness.

"We're going to carry that on. That just started a whole new movement," said Boylston, who planned to keep the hugs going, including at the Alzheimer's walk.

Gwyneth J. Saunders is a veteran journalist and freelance writer living in Bluffton.

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