By Sharnita Midgett
Jack Witzman remembers the first time his wife, Jackie, met the new executive director of Easterseals last summer while he toured the adult daycare.
Upon meeting him, Jackie got up and started to dance. She was trying to teach him line dancing, and Jack knew that his wife enjoyed the atmosphere. A year later, Jackie became a 2019 Ambassador for Easterseals.
“It’s just so positive that I know when she’s there, I don’t have to worry,” Jack said.
Along with his many roles, Jack added being a caregiver for his wife after she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Throughout their journey, the role of caregiving was one that required help, and he turned to Easterseals who provided a comforting community for her and a supportive group for him.
“It started off with a visit to Dr. [Jason] Karlawish up there at the Penn Memory Center,” Jack said. Jackie is a patient at the Penn Memory Center, and she and Jack had participated in a clinical trial. “He realized that Jackie needed a structured environment, and he had encouraged me to start looking around for a facility that she could go to during the day to get that kind of help.”
In looking for a place that was a right fit for Jackie, Jack found Easterseals, a place that provides services of education, outreach, and advocacy for people living with disabilities so that they can live, learn, work and play. When Jack picked her up at the end of the program day, Jackie had a large smile on her face. He recalled times when he would ask her, “What did you do today?” and she would show him how she was exercising. The community at Easterseals recognized that Jackie loved music from the ’60s and watched her dance as a form of exercise. Sometimes he might ask, “Was there any music?” and she would respond, enthusiastically, “Oh yeah!”
Jack saw that same smile on April 6, at the Easterseals/CAI Volleyball Challenge fundraiser, where Jackie greeted and spoke with guests. As a 2019 Ambassador for Easterseals, her job is to engage guests who participated in the fundraisers. At the Volleyball Challenge, she and Jack sponsored a team called “Jackie’s JEMS.”
“She was enjoying herself. She loves being in that kind of an atmosphere,” Jack said. “The participants enjoyed meeting the ambassadors; they enjoyed meeting Jackie.”
In an InSight magazine cover story, Jack said, “one day my wife and I will walk out of the darkness and into the light.” Jack has cherished the help and guidance that programs like Easterseals has given him and Jackie on their journey.
“For what they’ve done for me, they have provided me a great sense of security that when Jackie is in the program,” he said. “She is safe, she’s very well taken care of, and that they are providing her an atmosphere in which she can accomplish activities which she can be proud of.”