"Unfortunately, there hasn't been a lot of presence in Park City, and as a board member, I thought we should do something to raise awareness," Ganss Harris told The Park Record.
That's the reason Ganss Harris is teaming up with the Paint Mixer for a public fundraiser on Tuesday, Nov. 13.
The Paint Mixer, a venue for art, wine education and entertainment owned by Nicky Lecher, is located on the north side of the 738 Main St. building, opened in September.
Those who attend will be able to take a painting class the subject will be Main Street in Park City enjoy some refreshments and learn about the Alzheimer's Association, Ganss Harris said.
"The Paint Mixer will have an instructor there and everyone will be able to participate, whether they have artistic ability or not, and go home with an original painting that they created," she said. "I, myself, do not have an artistic ability. My child who is four and a half is more artistic than I am, but the event will be fun and will raise awareness for a good cause."
The Alzheimer's Foundation mission is "to eliminate Alzheimer's disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected, and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.
Since November is Alzheimer's awareness month, Ganss Harris, whose mother is battling the disease, said it was a good time to host a fundraiser.
Admission is $40 and will pay for the materials and instruction. A portion of the proceeds will go directly to the association, Ganss Harris said.
"I'm personally providing the wine, sodas, refreshments and appetizers, all of which are complimentary," she said. "There will be some great door prizes that have been donated by generous area businesses, including the Park City Jewelers, Park City Pizza, Monkey Mountain, the United States Ski Association, Rossignol and Maxfield's Chocolate Company.
"Everyone will get an opportunity to win a prize and every guest will get a free box of Maxfield's chocolates, and we will sell additional drawing tickets during the event," she said. "However, if people want to, or are moved to do donate more, they can. Even if they can't attend the event, but want to contribute, they can online by visiting www.alz.org or they can call the association directly at 1-800-272-3900."
That phone number, she said, will connect the caller to the nearest Alzheimer's Association chapter.
"So, if you called from California, it will connect them to the California office," she said.
Ganss Harris chose the Paint Mixer for the fundraiser venue because art has proven to be a way to help those with the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.
"Art therapists work with these patients, and the artwork that they would create is so incredibly moving," she said. "On the caregivers' side, art has been a great outlet for them to express their feelings."
When Ganss Harris was the vice president of development for the Alzheimer's Association while living in Massachusetts, she had some experiences with patients and caregivers that made an impact on her.
"We had presented an exhibit in Boston with works by a woman who had the disease," Ganss Harris said. "I worked with her daughter and her husband. After the woman died, her daughter found more than 2,000 drawings that her mother had done in the seven years she was battling Alzheimer's."
The art has since been displayed in New York and Boston.
"It's interesting to look at her work and see what a great outlet it was for her," Ganss Harris said.
Nicky Lecher, owner of the Paint Mixer, said she is so happy Ganss Harris asked her to help with the Park City event.
"We have a product that, I think, appeals to people of all ages," Lecher said. "We had already done fundraisers for Girls Scouts of Utah, and earlier this week, we did an event for Park City High School's girls volleyball team."
The Paint Mixer has also presented events for Jans Winter Welcome, Park City Day School and the Weilenmann School of Discovery.
"Heidi contacted me about hosting the event because this month is Alzheimer's Awareness Month, and I explained to her that we have been working with the community with their efforts to raise awareness of the many different organizations that are in Park City," Lecher said. "It is very effective to do something that all ages and people with all interests can participate in.
"Also, all the fundraisers we hold are open to the public," she said. "No one has to be invited to attend. Anyone can just stop by and participate. That way the public can contribute to the cause."
The exposure is vital for the Alzheimer's Association, said Ganss Harris, who started volunteering with the organization in Boston in the 1980s, after her grandfather was diagnosed.
"Back then, no one knew what the disease was, and now, most everyone knows what it is," she said. "While it's good that people know, it's also sad that so many people have been affected by it."
The Alzheimer's Association of Utah will hold a fundraiser at the Paint Mixer, 738 Main St., on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 6:30 p.m. The cost is $40. People can register by calling the Paint Mixer at (435) 604-0820, or go online at www.thepaintmixer.com/quick-signup.php?eventid=190.