Alzheimer’s Association receives generous gift from St. Rocco teen
PROVIDENCE — It is safe to say that Raffaela Montecalvo’s memory lives on in the generosity of her granddaughter.
When Brianna Montecalvo was 12 years old, her beloved grandmother, Raffaela, passed away from Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia.
Brianna and her mother Marcia recalled the emotional struggle their family experienced when they witnessed the disease begin to affect the beloved grandmother.
“She passed away when I was in the sixth grade,” Brianna explained. “She used to take care of me so having to visit her in a nursing home was very difficult.”
Now 16, Brianna, a parishioner at St. Rocco Parish and student at La Salle Academy, has honored her grandmother and all those who have suffered and continue to struggle with the disease, by a kind and selfless gesture. The teenager contributed $800 from her confirmation at St. Rocco Church to support the Alzheimer’s Association.
Brianna’s father, local television news anchorman Mike Montecalvo, encouraged his daughter to donate the gifts that she received during a special event in her life to a charity that was close to her heart.
“My dad has always been asking me if I would want to donate my gifts,” she explained. “He let me pick any organization and I chose Alzheimer’s Association because I have been close to that the longest.”
Brianna’s mother, Marcia, shared how proud she was of her daughter, adding that she has continued to be a positive example for her peers.
“She gave of herself rather than thinking of just herself,” she said. “She is laying the groundwork for her future and is learning that life is about giving and not just receiving. We get too wrapped up in our lives, so it's good to give back.”
Brianna has been actively involved with the Rhode Island Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. She participates in the annual Memory Walk and has continued to educate herself about the disease.
“I've learned the personal aspect of it, not just what you research online,” she said. “Going through it firsthand is totally different. Knowing what really happens is different.”
Camilla Farrell, development director for the Rhode Island Chapter Alzheimer's Association, said that she was so moved that a 16-year old would donate such a large gift.
"I was just so overwhelmed that a high schooler would even think of something so unselfish," she explained. "I had worked with her dad and they are a wonderful family. I was so touched that she thought of that and especially in honor of her grandmother."
Offering the gift and participating in the Memory Walk has brought back many fond memories of her grandmother and the love she shared with her family.
“A lot of the holidays were really special,” Brianna recalled. “She brought the family together. She was the best.”
The Rhode Island Alzheimer's Association offers many programs to help families including a 24-hour daily help line and counseling support. Farrell said that Brianna's donation would directly benefit individuals with Alzheimer's disease and their families.
"Because Alzheimer’s is becoming more prevalent, children's grandparents and great-grandparents are affected and everyone in the family is affected as well," Farrell explained. "Children are becoming more aware of the importance of raising funds."
Brianna explained that she was happy to take the opportunity to offer this gift and that she feels that her grandmother would be proud of her.
“My friends thought it was kind of noble of me,” Brianna said. “They didn't know if they would be able to do that. I hoped it would help me mature and I finally got up the courage. I kind of felt bad that I hadn't done it before because there are people out there that need it more than me. It was a great experience.”
For more information on the Rhode Island Alzheimer's Association, visit the www.alz.org/ri or call 401-421-0008.
Kings of the Hill