Pilot Club of Tallahassee
Dana Foundation: The Pilot Club of Tallahassee is part of the larger organization Pilot International, which focuses on helping people with brain disorders. Your chapter identified a void of Alzheimer's information and support in your area. Please tell us about the annual Alzheimer's conference that you run in partnership with the Alzheimer's Project and the Pilot Scholarship House of Florida State University.
Yvonne Salfinger: The Pilot Club of Tallahassee, a community service organization, was started in 1935, and is still going strong 76+ years later. Pilot derives its name from the riverboat pilots who were able to steer a "true course" around obstacles and challenging conditions. The mission of Pilot International is to improve the quality of life in communities throughout the world.
In 1985, Pilot Club of Tallahassee members started the Annual Alzheimer's Disease Education and Training Conference when a club member's father developed Alzheimer's disease and she could not find anyone in the local area to provide information and assistance. She sought out doctors from other cities and obtained information about the disease. From there, our club took this on as one of our major projects.
The conference provides caregivers and professionals with current information on Alzheimer's research, legal issues, personal care tips, and other important information about the disease. The Alzheimer's Project, Inc. and the Pilot Club of Tallahassee work to ensure continuity for this important community event, now in its 27th year. Students from the LaVerne Weddle Pilot Scholarship House at Florida State University also assist at the conference, so it is a wonderful learning opportunity for them and a great mentoring opportunity for our members.
DF: How has the conference evolved over the years?
YS: In the early days, the conference was held at the former National Guard Armory turned Tallahassee Senior Citizens Center. Now, the conference is being held at the Florida State University School of Medicine auditorium with more than 175 attendees.
The keynote speaker this year was Dr. Kevin O'Neil, chief medical officer for Brookdale Senior Living. Dr. O'Neil is also co-editor and a contributing writer to the Optimal Aging Manual. Featured topics at the conference included pharmacotherapy with Alzheimer's disease; how to adapt meals and service for better dining success in the home; and how to assist your loved one with everyday activities. The conference is always free and includes breakfast, lunch, and, with advanced registration, on-site respite care for loved ones. We are usually able to obtain coffee and food through donations from local companies in the form of gift certificates or actual food items. Continuing education units are also offered, for a nominal fee.
DF: Who is your target audience and how is feedback collected and utilized?
The target audience is caregivers and professionals. We collect feedback by evaluations regarding the learning objectives, the activity atmosphere, and the speakers. We solicit suggestions for improvements as well. The information is then utilized by The Alzheimer's Project to help develop the focus for the coming year's conference. The planning starts for the following year as soon as the conference is completed.
YS: The Pilot Club participates in year-round brain-related education programs for different age groups. Can you please tell us about these initiatives, including the popular BrainMinders program?
BrainMinders is an educational children's program that uses puppets to teach kids how to "play safe, play smart," protect their brains, and prevent brain injuries. Remember, the only cure for brain injury is prevention. It is the signature project for Pilot International, under which the Pilot Club of Tallahassee is organized.
In December 2010, 892 kindergarten through second grade students at Ruediger, Springwood, and Roberts elementary schools learned how to "Protect Their Brains for Life." When asked what would happen if someone didn't wear a helmet while riding a bike, one kindergarten student at Ruediger said, "You could break your brain." Wearing protective gear is one of the several lessons taught to the students when the Pilot Club of Tallahassee presents BrainMinder BuddiesTM.
The BrainMinder Buddies™ program teaches injury prevention through the story “Wise Old Owl and his Fuzzy, Funny, Smart, and Sunny BrainMinder Buddies.” Gerald Giraffe (helmet Safety), Martin Monkey (playground safety), Penny Panda (seatbelt safety), and Fiona Fox (crossing the street safety), illustrate how to play safe and play smart. An additional BrainMinder program for children 7-8 years of age features Brave Bob Beagle (gun safety), Toolip Pig (safety in the kitchen), Hero Horse (helmet safety), Captain Kitty (boating safety), and Danny Deep (swimming safety).
In the past three years, the Pilot Club of Tallahassee has presented BrainMinders to more than 2,800 children at venues including Buck Lake Elementary, Gretchen Everhart School, Boys and Girls Club of Big Bend, the Florida Museum, the Florida High Safety Fair, The Alzheimer's Project Inc., Forget-Me-Not Walk, and the YMCA. Additionally, the Pilot Club of Tallahassee has provided more than 1,430 free bicycle helmets, donated from organizations such as the Epilepsy Foundation and PedBike, sponsored by the Florida Department of Transportation. That's a lot of brains we are teaching children to protect!
Another major project for the Pilot Club of Tallahassee has been Project Lifesaver, in partnership with The Alzheimer's Project and the Leon County Sheriff's Office. Project Lifesaver supplies local sheriff's offices with a sophisticated system of radio receivers that help provide rapid response to save lives and reduce potential for serious injury for adults and children who wander due to Alzheimer's, autism, Down syndrome, dementia, and other cognitive conditions. Used in concert with one another, these receivers triangulate the location of a person wearing a special transmitter bracelet. Average search times are usually short, with patients found in less than 30 minutes. The Pilot Club of Tallahassee has provided start-up funds for the receivers; received grants for supplying funding to The Alzheimer's Project for bracelets, batteries, and supplies; and provided manpower for changing the batteries, which has to be done monthly.
When Pilot members have free time, they raise funds to provide Rifton special needs high-back mobile chairs to students at Gretchen Everhart School, which accommodates approximately 250 students with severe to moderate mental handicaps.
For more information about the Pilot Club of Tallahassee, please visit www.tallahasseepilotclub.org.