Leonard Florence Center for Living (LFCFL) resident Patrick O’ Brien and a group of supporters make their way through the course during the 10th annual LFCFL Walk for Life on Admiral’s Hill last Sunday, Sept. 30. The walk was reported to be the biggest and most exciting since its inception 10 years ago.
The ALS Walk for Living on Admiral’s Hill, run by the Leonard Florence Center for Living (LFCFL), will host its 10th
In its milestone 10th year, the Leonard Florence ALS Walk for Living on Admiral’s Hill is being coordinated by Maura Graham, who came to the LFCFL in January. She said they are in the middle of crunch time for the Sept. 30 walk, but are excited how things are coming together. The walk is expected to attract residents of all ages, including several high school students from Chelsea, Everett and Malden Catholic.
annual walk this coming Sept. 30, and new Director Maura Graham said she is ready for another great event.
“This is my first year as walk director, but I’ve had the good fortune of having the previous walk director sty on to consult and help me,” said Graham. “Now we have 10 years of walks and so we have some history under our belts and it comes together really well. It’s huge for us. It’s our only fundraise at Leonard Florence and 100 percent of the proceeds go towards resident care.”
The Walk for Living benefits ALS and MS patients at the LFCFL, and helps them to be able to do unique activities. It is the only fundraiser for the home, which exclusively cares for those with ALS and MS. As an example, last year several residents with ALS were able to use proceeds from the walk to go to Disney World in Florida.
The walk is a family activity, and Graham said they have a lot of fun things to do in addition to the walk for families and young adults.
Matt Siegel of Kiss 108 will once again be the emcee of the event, this being his fourth year of participating in the walk.
In addition, Phyllis and Alan Bolotin of Swampscott have been named the Walk for Living Ambassadors this year.
“They have been very good to the Leonard Florence over the years and they have graciously accepted the roles of Walk Ambassadors,” said Graham. “They’ve been wonderful and have a huge team coming.”
Also coming will be hundreds of students.
One of the unique things about the Walk for Living is the fact that high school students from Chelsea High, Everett High and Malden Catholic participate and learn about ALS. Many eventually befriend the residents and gain an understanding of what it is to live with ALS or MS.
“Everett, Chelsea and Malden Catholic will all be participating and will have a big group,” said Graham. “Malden Catholic will be bringing a large group because they are honoring Brother Joe (Comber), who lives here at the Leonard Florence. The fact that so many young people participate is wonderful and shows a great sense of unity with the residents here and the community. It is multi-generational.”
Another aspect of the walk is that many of the residents who are benefitting from the fundraising participate side-by-side with the fundraisers. Many even bring their own teams.
“It is a rare thing to be able to walk side-by-side with the people you’re helping,” she said. “It’s a sense of camaraderie.”
Graham came to the LFCFL in January and previously worked in public relations and marketing for the Cambridge Office of Tourism and the Harvard Square Business Association.
“The minute I walked in to the Leonard Florence, I felt it was a great fit,” she said.
Graham lives in Melrose and has two young children.
To sign up for the Walk for Living, go to WalkForLiving.org. Registrations are also accepted the day of the event. Registration is $20 and kids 12 and under are free. Students are $10.
The event begins at 10 a.m. on Sept. 30, 165 Captain’s Row.
Gertrude (Florence) Bial of Delray Beach, Florida, formerly of Chelsea, entered into rest on Jan. 30, 2018. She was 94 years old.
Gertrude (Florence) Bial.
Born in Chelsea, Mrs. Bial was the daughter of the late Myer Israel and the late Fannie (Raisman) Florence.
She graduated from Chelsea High School Class of 1941 and later attended Fisher College and Secretarial School.
During WWII, she worked as a volunteer at the Naval Ship Yard.
She was president of B’nai Brith in Chelsea, executive secretary at American Biltrite Corporation and co-owner of the Bial Upholstery Company in Boston, with her late husband, Norman Bial.
She is the devoted mother of Louis C. Bial and his late wife Deborah, Roberta Pinta and her late husband Howard, and Scott N. Bial and his wife Lisa, the cherished grandmother of Dr. Erica Bial and her husband Todd Chapin, Lauren Bial Schneider and her husband Eric, Matthew Bial and his wife Dr. Wendy Glaberson, Jennifer Pinta, Natalie Pinta and her husband Kevin Gonsalves, Adam J. Bial, Jason R. Bial, Jack F. Bial and Julia A. Bial, and great grandmother of Jacob, Nehemiah and Dayne Schneider and Jordan Bial. Loving sister of David Florence, Rosalie Cohen and the late Sylvia Sazinsky, Bernard Florence, Dr. Lewis Florence, Dr. Hyman Florence and Leonard Florence.
Funeral services will be held at Stanetsky Memorial Chapel, Canton, on Friday, February 2, 2018.
Expressions of sympathy in her memory may be donated to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, www.themmrf.org, or Autism Speaks, www.autismspeaks.org/site/donation.
Mrs. Bial was a homemaker, a wonderful friend, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She will be greatly missed.
By Seth Daniel
Kathryn McKenna was in the middle of reinventing herself – getting into peak physical condition – when her life took an abrupt turn to ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.
McKenna, a life-long Salem resident with deep roots in that city, now lives at the Dapper McDonald House in the Leonard Florence Center for Living (LFCFL) on Admirals Hill – and she couldn’t be happier and more hopeful.
On Sunday, she and a huge contingent of family and friends will participate in the ever-popular Walk for Living on the campus of LFCFL and on Admirals Hill. The walk is expected to attract 1,000 or more people raising money to help expand opportunities at the home – which is considered on the forefront of facilities in the world for treating and managing ALS.
“When I envision a Leonard Florence resident with ALS, Kathryn McKenna was the ideal candidate,” said Barry Berman, CEO. “That’s because Kathryn has a zest for life and living at the Leonard Florence allows her to continue living a very active and engaged and dignified life. We all realize that if Kathryn was in a traditional nursing home, she would be leading a much different life. Our staff are experts in understanding the nature of the disease, thus offering our residents the highest quality of life possible.”
McKenna led an active life for certain. The son of a famed basketball coach at St. John’s Prep in Danvers, she was always in top shape and active – known as a chatter box.
She was a flight attendant, was multi-lingual, traveled the world and worked at the Lahey Clinic.
That active lifestyle was cut out from under her starting in 2014 when she noticed changes. She was diagnosed in 2015, but the degenerative disease has not taken completely taken away her active nature – especially since coming to the LFCFL in January.
“It was very hard to leave my apartment in Salem overlooking the Harbor, but I had to do it,” she said. “it was the best decision I ever made. I’m very independent. I was very chatty and that has changed, but I still get my point across…I believe in a cure by 2020.”
Many of the things that McKenna and the other residents at the two ALS homes at the Leonard Florence would not be afforded them at other facilities. Designed by resident Steve Saling, who has ALS, the homes are customized with technology and the staff is trained specially to meet the needs of those with ALS.
That combination, plus a very active and understanding administration, has led to remarkable achievements in quality of life for individuals who were written off in the past.
McKenna, 60, said she had been inspired by a co-worker at Leahy to go back to college and finish her degree in 2013. She decided to major in Sports Science. While working two jobs, exercising with 20 year olds and taking care of her elderly mother – the active woman began to notice some inconsistencies.
“I knew something was wrong in 2014,” she said. “My speech was getting impaired. One day I was working out and my colleague, who was so nice, noticed and said, ‘Kathryn, you don’t have to do anymore.’ I was diagnosed with ALS in 2015, but I still had a semester of school left until graduation. I had promised my dad I would finish, so I went back…It was hard during that semester, but I wanted to persevere.”
And that she did, graduating from Salem State in 2015 with her degree.
Now, with that same die-hard spirit, she keeps focused on eating and attitude.
“The doctor told me when I was early on that appetite and attitude would determine my quality of life,” she said. “I work very hard to keep my appetite up and my attitude positive.”
She and many other residents of LFCFL and the community will bring that same positive, can-do attitude to Admirals Hill on Sunday, where critical fundraising and fun are set to take place.
“The walk certainly helps raise money, but it also gives our residents a sense of well-being when they see how many people that do care about their living situation,” said Berman. “We are now working on opening our third residence, but obviously that will take time with the fundraising.”
The LFCFL Walk for Life will begin registration on Sunday, Oct. 1, at 8 a.m., with the Walk beginning at 10 a.m. A celebration will follow.
Award-winning filmmaker Patrick O’Brien, a resident of the Leonard Florence Center for Living in Chelsea, will premiere his move ‘Transfatty Lives’ on April 3 at Revere Showcase Cinemas. O’Brien documents his life before, after and during his trials with the degenerative disease ALS.
Imagine creating an award-winning documentary just by moving your eyebrows.
Patrick O’Brien, who was diagnosed with ALS 10 years ago at age 30, spent 10 years producing the highly acclaimed ALS documentary “Transfatty Lives.” The film, which won the 2015 Audience Award at the Tribeca and Milano Film Festivals, will have its Boston premiere on April 3 at the Revere Showcase Cinema.
Patrick, who lives at the Leonard Florence Center for Living (LFCL) in Chelsea, is entirely immobilized and on a ventilator. He directed and produced ‘Transfatty Lives’ entirely by using his eyes to communicate through a special device attached to his computer. ‘Transfatty Lives’ takes one on an emotional roller coaster from Patrick’s wild, fun-loving days as a DJ and filmmaker into the dark heart of ALS. With the support of his friends and family, Patrick braves the unthinkable and turns his camera onto himself. He is able to capture all of the emotion, humor, and absurdity of real life – falling in love and fathering a child along the way.
‘Transfatty Lives,’ so named because of O’Brien’s love of donuts and other junk foods, depicts O’Brien’s personal reflections since his ALS diagnosis.
In Patrick’s words: “ALS is a fatal and incurable disease. I have chosen to do something with my illness. As you will see, I turned the camera on myself and began to document my journey with ALS. This challenge has given me a focal point for my energies, and will hopefully inspire others to keep moving through their own adversities.”
The Leonard Florence Center for Living, operated by the Chelsea Jewish Foundation, is the first urban model Green House in the country and the only fully vented ALS residence in the world. O’Brien moved into the LFCL soon after it opened in 2010, after living in a traditional nursing home that kept him confined to his bed – and his room – 24 hours a day. Today, in addition to producing films, O’Brien travels, attends concerts, sporting events and movies.
“We are so proud of Patrick and excited to show his remarkable film to the Boston community,” states Barry Berman, Chelsea Jewish Foundation CEO. “Patrick’s talent, passion and perseverance in the face of such a devastating disease is an inspiration to us all.”
The premiere will be held at the Revere Showcase Cinema, 565 Squire Rd in Revere at 10 a.m. on Sunday, April 3. Tickets are $20 per person and include the film, a Q&A with Patrick O’Brien and a reception following the premiere.
All proceeds benefit the Patrick O’Brien Foundation. To purchase tickets, go to www.reelboston.org. For more information, email Judy Mastrocola at email@example.com or call 617-887-0001.
Krista Rose has some fun with a mask and her daughter Annie, 1, who is delighted by the surprise. The fun was had at the Leonard Florence Center for Living’s Purim Party on Sunday.
For some 10 years, using just his eyebrows, Leonard Florence Center For Living (LFCFL) resident Patrick O’Brien – who has ALS and cannot move anything but his eyebrows – worked away at creating what he hoped would be his greatest masterpiece on film.
A filmmaker before getting ALS, he was inclined to document the entire process of the disease’s progression, and did so quite well.
As the disease progressed, though, it became harder for him to work on the film. Several editors had helped him with the project, but nothing seemed to take the nearly-finished film from good to great.
Then, by coincidence, Documentarian Doug Pray entered the picture, and he and O’Brien formed a team that finally got the film out to the world.
And the world has loved it.
With O’Brien and Pray working together, ‘Transfatty Lives’ was born, and now the film is garnering awards from New York City to Milan. Earlier this year, O’Brien’s film won the Tribeca Film Festival in its category, and just this past Sunday it won the Audience Award at the Milano Film Festival in Italy.
“What a long, strange trip it’s been,” said O’Brien this week over e-mail. “The movie almost didn’t get finished. It was by luck that our composer, Bradford Reed, bumped into filmmaker Doug Pray one night at a party. Doug watched a rough cut of the movie and wrote a six-page letter to me about how to fix my movie, then titled ‘Everything will be okay.’”
His letter came just in time, O’Brien said.
“I had been trying to make the movie work for eight years at that point, and the film needed some fresh eyes,” said O’Brien. “I had been working with a writer and editor named Scott Crowningshield at that stage. It was good, the film, but not great. It had to be great. I had been documenting my life with ALS since the beginning, and it was going to be great. It just needed the right touch. Thank God for Doug Pray, who agreed to come on as a producer. It was good that Doug came onto the scene at that point in time, because by then I had experimented so much with my cokamayme ideas.”
Pray said in a telephone interview this week that he is incredibly honored to have worked with O’Brien.
“By the time I met Patrick, he had grown very frustrated and realized this had to be the last big push for his movie,” said Pray. “You can only keep reforming and editing movies for so long. I think we all felt that energy…The film did need help. It was beautiful, but needed help. It was like a wonderful painting that needs a frame. It was so powerful, funny, weird and artsy. No one was going to see if we didn’t make the push and take this on, and the potential for the film was enormous.”
Pray said O’Brien had gathered all of the footage – years of footage – and had compiled it for quite some time. The trick was to edit all of the raw footage into a great accounting of what O’Brien went through in his ALS journey – a journey that included lying motionless for several years in a Baltimore nursing home, only able to stare at the ceiling.
Once arriving at the LFCFL, the technology and enormous improvement in his quality of life at the facility’s ALS Green House, allowed him to continue his work and to be a key decision maker and director in the editing of his film.
Once again, O’Brien did that without the use of any of his body aside from the movement his eyebrows.
“As filmmakers, we are fussy with our own work, and I can’t imagine what it must have been like for Patrick to be locked in a bed in Boston, not able to move, while these other people all over the place are working on his film,” said Pray. “However, the degree to which he was able to give input and guide us and direct us about where he wanted the film to go is simply remarkable and amazing especially when you consider his situation. I’ll never forget this experience.”
Pray also said O’Brien’s story about winning Tribeca and Milan – and being able to travel to the Tribeca Festival for his premiere – is a feather in the cap for the LFCFL.
“It says a lot about the Leonard Florence that they allow people to be themselves and let people live lives that are meaningful – even when they’re paralyzed,” he said. “They supported this whole thing, even getting Patrick down to New York, which wasn’t easy. He couldn’t have done this without the technology available and support of that facility. He couldn’t have done this at a regular nursing home facility. That says a lot about Leonard Florence. It’s not normal; it’s special.”
The film is not yet available for public viewing due to the fact that it is still in the Film Festival circuit. It will be premiered in Los Angeles later this year, and will have a Boston premiere some time next year, O’Brien said. However, he said people can visit TransFattyLives.com for more information and to view a trailer.
The LFCL features neurological specialty residences with cutting-edge assistive technology, allowing individuals with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease) and MS (multiple sclerosis) to receive skilled nursing care in a nurturing home environment. The 7th annual ALS & MS Walk for Living, a fundraiser to support these individuals as well as the innovative residences, will be held on Sunday, September 27, a
Filmmaker Patrick O’Brien – who has ALS and can only move one eyebrow – with Chelsea Jewish Foundation CEO Barry Berman last week at O’Brien’s home in the Leonard Florence Center for Living. This year’s ALS Walk for Living on Sunday will pay homage to several awards recently won by O’Brien for his film ‘TransFattyLives.’
t 165 Captains Row on Admirals Hill at 10 a.m.
This year Billy Costa of KISS 108 will act as emcee and kick-off the two-mile walk. Media sponsors include the Independent Newspaper Group; major corporate sponsors include Biogen, M&T Bank, AHOA, Kayem and Clifton Larson. Immediately following the walk, there will be a BBQ hosted by Chili’s, doughnuts provided by Dunkin Donuts, face painting, live dance performances, a petting zoo, a photo booth and a raffle. There is a $10 donation fee to participate in the Walk, which includes a Walk for Living tee shirt, the BBQ and all the activities. The Walk for Living is one of the few walks that are dog-friendly.
Last week, KISS 108’s Matt Siegel kicked off the 6th annual ALS & MS Walk for Living, which will be held Sept. 28 at the Leonard Florence Center on Admiral’s Hill in Chelsea. The Center features the first specialized ALS and MS residences in the country, enabling the residents to live active and independent lives. Siegel will emcee this year’s walk.
Also kicking off the walk with Siegel was Jack Geilfuss, the face behind this year’s walk. Jack was diagnosed with MS while in college and moved into the Leonard Florence Center shortly after it opened. Steve Saling, another resident, is an architect who helped design the Center when he was diagnosed with ALS eight years ago.
Barry Berman, CEO of
Chelsea Jewish Foundation,
recently won one of
the highest honors in his
The Chelsea Jewish Foundation (CJF) announced this week that CEO Barry Berman has been selected by Leading Age to receive this year’s “Award of Honor.”
This award is the association’s highest honor and is a nationwide award.
“I was shocked when I received the word because it’s a national award,” he told the Record. “What you do in Massachusetts is one thing, but when the nation recognizes you, it’s really something.”
The award is voted on by peers within the industry.
Berman was chosen based upon his exemplary leadership and commitment to expanding the world of possibilities for aging. Individuals from the entire country were considered for this important award. In essence, Barry Berman was selected due to his outstanding leadership, exceptional service and commitment to quality care.
“We are so pleased to recognize Barry Berman for this esteemed honor,” said William L. Minnix, President and CEO of LeadingAge. “He is a true leader whose passion for meeting the needs of others is self-evident in the remarkable organization he has built and the outstanding work he has done on behalf of his state, his region and his industry. We congratulate him on this very well-deserved tribute.”
Mr. Berman began his tenure in Chelsea by expanding and rebuilding the Chelsea Jewish Nursing Home in 1983. In collaboration with his colleagues, he then built the Cohen-Florence-Levine Estates, Massachusetts’ first mixed-income assisted living which opened in 1996. The team then developed the Florence and Chafetz Home for Specialized Care (2002), a more enhanced assisted living targeted to those with dementia and other compromising conditions.
Additionally, Mr. Berman is responsible for developing the award-winning Leonard Florence Center for Living, the first urban Green House model nursing home in the nation. The Center, which opened in February 2010, provides skilled nursing care in a home environment to the elderly and those with medical and physical disabilities. Two of the Green House homes at the Leonard Florence Center serve those with ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease) and multiple sclerosis, the first such residences in the nation.
“The Award of Honor is the highest honor given out by our national affiliate LeadingAge, in recognition of an individual who has had a significant and lasting impact on the field of aging nationally,” explained Elissa Sherman, President of LeadingAge Massachusetts. “Barry has focused his entire career on improving the lives of the most vulnerable by developing truly innovative programs and by persevering to meet the needs of those most difficult to serve. By selflessly sharing what he has learned with others, he has become a transformational leader in our field who is widely respected by his colleagues, both here in Massachusetts and around the country. The Board of Trustees could not think of a more deserving individual for this award than Barry Berman.”
Berman has devoted his career to building the long-term care community in Chelsea and surrounding areas by developing innovative models of care, which includes skilled and short-term rehab residences, traditional and specialized assisted living options, and home care, personal care, and hospice agencies. He has been the CEO of the Chelsea Jewish Foundation for 36 years, since completing his master s degree in Rehabilitation Administration.
Berman is on the Board of Directors of the Chelsea Soldier’s Home. In the past he has served on the Massachusetts Governor’s Council of Assisted Living, and the Board of Directors for the Massachusetts Assisted Living Facilities Association, the Massachusetts Aging Services Association, and the ALS Association Massachusetts Chapter.
The “Award of Honor” was presented to Berman on Sunday, Oct. 27, at the LeadingAge Annual Meeting in Dallas. The event was attended by more than 5,000 dedicated professionals who work in the aging arena.
Berman said he gives all the credit to his staff.
“The award really is for the work we do at CJF,” he said. “I end up getting an award for the hard work people do here every day. I really do believe that.”