Scouts on a mission

MARQUETTE – Not every youngster can empathize with people afflicted with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. After all, there’s a big age gap between the preteen set and seniors.

Father Marquette Local Girl Scout Troop 5033’s junior level Scouts, though, are bridging that cap.

Trooper Leader Heather Modell oversaw the troop last Thursday in the Community Room of the Peter White Public Library when it sponsored a screening of the documentary “Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory,” the winner of the Documentary Audience Award at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

“It’s basically about the Music & Memory project, or therapy, and how music therapy can be so incredibly powerful for dementia and Alzheimer’s patients,” Modell said.

The film, she noted, documents such cases.

The connection between the documentary and the troop came about when the Scouts began to work toward their Bronze Award.

“They decided that they wanted to basically focus on veterans as their core group,” Modell said, “so, through the process, we were trying to figure out what we could do specifically with the veterans, or for the veterans, and we happened to come across the Music & Memory project, which they already have at the veterans’ home here for therapy.”

That home is the D.J. Jacobetti Home for Veterans, located at 425 Fisher St.

The troop decided on an iPod, iTunes card and headphone drive, Modell said.

“Those items, obviously, go to benefit directly to veterans for this project,” Modell said, “and then, of course, to get community awareness out about this amazing therapy, we decided that we would screen this film.”

Music & Memory, a national program based in Mineola, New York, is a nonprofit organization that brings personalized music into the lives of elderly or infirm patients through digital music technology, according to the group’s website at musicandmemory.org.

A video clip from “Alive Inside” documentary that showed Henry, one of the residents reawakened by listening to his Cab Calloway favorites, went viral with more than 11 million views.

The nonprofit currently faces a shortage of $49 iPhone shuffles for patients with special needs. People can send a used iPod, or buy a new one, that will go directly to residents in a Music & Memory certified nursing home. Prepaid shipping labels and donation forms are on the group’s website.

The items Scouts collect will go to Jacobetti, Modell said.

Scout Tyleur Wright, 9, attended the film screening at the library.

“I’m involved because I help at my church, trying to get people to donate headphones, iPods and iTunes cards so we can help the Music & Memory program at Jacobetti,” Tyleur said, “because they believe that some people with Alzheimer’s, they can get their memory back with music.”

Maija Parkkonen, 10, also attended the screening. She attends St. Michael Catholic Church in Marquette, along with Tyleur.

For the Scouts, collecting digital items – as with many needed things – it has been challenging in a way. Are people good about donating the items?

“Like, in the middle,” Maija said.

At the library last Thursday, the Scouts had a special setup for the event.

Tyleur said cookie boxes – appropriate for the Girl Scout crowd – were placed out for the items while cups were available for monetary donations.

“And then we have tissues, water and food,” Tyleur said.

For information about the Scout collection drive, contact Modell at 228-9517 or Modehl@aol.com.

Ken Arseneau, activity programmer/volunteer coordinator at the Jacobetti home, said about 20 residents are using the Music & Memory program.

“It does help jog memory,” said Arseneau, who pointed out music makes a great tool as it ties to a specific memory.

Digital music through an iPod and iTunes, he stressed, allows someone to gear a music playlist for one person – an attractive feature since everyone responds to different music depending on their life experiences and backgrounds – and the iPod shuffle can be used for just that purpose. Also, a listener can use ear buds so nearby residents aren’t disturbed.

Another benefit of the program is that iTunes can build a musical library so songs don’t have to be repurchased, he said.

Listening to a song too can help with behavioral issues.

“Music can be calming and can be used to help with aggressive behavior, or calm someone down who’s agitated,” Arseneau said.

Music can free up space in the medicine cabinet as well since it can be a good alternative to pills.

“You can give only so much medicine,” said Arseneau, who noted people listening to musical sounds can be put in a better mood without having a chemical inducement having to be made.

Anyone wanting to donate iPods or iTunes cards can do so directly at the center.

Keep in mind that a donated iPod, even a used one, doesn’t necessarily have to completely overhaul someone’s life.

After all, Arseneau acknowledged that even a small improvement via music can help a resident.

“Any result is a good result,” Arseneau said.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250.