Letter from the Founder

Letter from the Founder

As I reflect back over the past four years since my brother Jeff called to say my parents wanted to move back to Phoenix from Atlanta, I am amazed how much has changed in all our lives. 

My mother “Florence (FLO)” had contacted meningitis, which became encephalitis of the brain and she had lost all her short term memory. Florence (my mom) passed away April 30th2012 from Dementia and Diabetes. My father “John (Johnny R)” had become her caretaker. In 2010 John was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and now all would change. I would become my parents POA (power of attorney) and begin the journey of dealing with two parents with terminal diseases. What began as a promise to my parents, my brother and myself, has now evolved into The Johnny O Alzheimer’s and Dementia Awareness Foundation. You see as we looked at the entire Alzheimer’s, Dementia dilemma, it was quite obvious to all of us the public really had no idea what was really going on with Alzheimer’s and Dementia. You see, these brain disorders were really taking a back seat to other more popular health causes.

In a little short of six months we have taken this from an idea to a real health care non-profit foundation dedicated to Alzheimer’s and Dementia Awareness, Cause, Support and Research. One of our first steps we have taken on our mission was to identify one of the top research doctors in the country and to begin an educational process with him or her on the entire Alzheimer’s and Dementia cause. We have begun discussions with Dr. Marwan Sabbagh the Director of the Banner Sun Health Research Institute located in Sun City AZ. Dr. Sabbagh’s work and the work done at the institute has really caught our attention. The Johnny O Alzheimer’s and Dementia Awareness Foundation has decided for now to donate a majority of its annual research donations to Dr. Sabbagh and his staffs work.

We are working to build one of the largest grassroots efforts, by volunteers, patients, activists, organizations and corporations to insure we receive the ultimate research efforts and the maximum support and awareness to the public. It is our time to make sure Alzheimer’s and Dementia no longer take a back seat to other public health (charity) outcries. We are very proud of our efforts so far and feel our calling will affect many people’s lives!

You see, Alzheimer’s is like a computer where the hard drive is going bad. But unlike you being able to order another hard drive, adding a new brain at this point in time is out of the question. Or is it? Only years of research can answer that question.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia is now out of control! 5.5 million new cases in 2011 with an increased growth rate of 66%. While other diseases like breast cancer is actually at only 3% growth rate. If you add in all the Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients in the US, the number would be close to an estimated 15 MILLION people. Now add 4 people per family or friends who are affected by this disease and you have 60 MILLION people being affected in some way or another every day! NOW, lets say those 5.5 Million will pass away in 8-10 years. That means more people will be dying than live in the entire metro area of Phoenix AZ.

One in eight people age 65 and older (13%) have Alzheimer’s disease. Every 69 seconds, someone in America develops Alzheimer’s. By mid century it will be every 33 seconds. Women are more likely than men to have Alzheimer’s and Dementia. 14 % of all people 71 or older have Dementia. In 2010 15 million family members provided 17 billion hours of unpaid care. At $ 21.00 an hour average figure for care, that’s a huge number!

In the last 10 years Alzheimer’s and Dementia death rate is 22 times the rate of breast cancer! (66% vs. 3%)

Now do you see why we are so interested! Hopefully you will be too.

With the “JOHNNY O ARMY HELPING US MARCH TO A CURE”, we can win the battle and eventually win the WAR!

Now is the time for all of us to raise awareness, offer increased support and information on treatments, drugs and most important, research. Nothing can separate us from our mission and our calling to help others.

Mark ORavitz: "There is nothing in this world more important than the resource of its people to give more than they receive"

A funny movie back in the late 70’s (I was in college) was Animal House. In one scene actor John Belushi, one of the key characters, is reacting to his Fraternity brothers because he just found out that they have lost their charter and are being kicked off campus! John says "When the German’s bombed Pearl Harbor, did we give up? Hell no!" We all know it was the Japanese, but still they did not give up to defend their fraternity charter and neither will "The Johnny O Army" give up until we find a cure!.

Jim Valvano, a famous basketball coach at North Carolina State who died of cancer and has a foundation called the Jimmy V had a number of famous quotes which I have personally carried through life! They include:

  • "To me there are three things to do every day: one we should laugh, next we should think (plan out things) and three, we should show our emotions moved to tears either by happiness or joy".
  • "Don’t give up, Don’t ever give up".
  • "Believe in yourself"
  • "There are 86,400 seconds in a day. It’s up to you to figure out what to do with them".
  • "No matter what business you are in you cannot run in place or you will be run over".
  • "Never give up! Failure and rejection are only the first steps to success".
  • "Be a dreamer. If you don’t know how to dream, you’re dead."


We at The Johnny O Alzheimer’s and Dementia Foundation are all dreamers, we dream of a day where people do not have Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Parkinson’s or any other brain disorder!

Ben Hogan, a very famous golfer said "as you walk down the fairways of life you must smell the roses, for you only get to play one round"!

Chris Bunger, Marine Corp Officer and Union Carbide Corporation Executive: "When a lion wakes up every morning his main objective is to eat to survive. What he doesn’t realize is that he only has to be faster than the slowest gazelle to reach his objective."

Johnny O (John R ORavitz), "I feel some days like I am losing my mind. This disease has robbed me being able to think and to speak so you can understand what I am trying to say."

There is a real sense of urgency in all the quotes that have just been mentioned.

I went to a funeral this year (2012) and it was for a great gentleman, who attended my church. He and I had ushered together at the church. His name was Bob Schriver and he was a real southern gentleman from New Bern NC. He was a Captain in the Navy who was decorated in Vietnam. He was a great husband, father and friend to many people. Bob was also a dying breed from a time in the past. Bob was a real gentleman, educator, scholar, family man and just a carrying human being. It made me think, what has happened to our culture, our prospectus on life and our caring for other human beings?

Bob was one of just many people in our country and the world who are aging and dying. As you already have figured out, most people with Alzheimer’s and Dementia are the elderly (Senior Community). These people have helped to shape this country and mold you and me. Many of these people are from places like Sun City and Sun City West Arizona (I call it Pleasantville USA). A place where seniors still care about each other, go to church or their temple, play golf, bridge and talk about days and years which have passed them by. While we are seeing cases of early Alzheimer’s in their 30’s, this disease mainly attacks people in their 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s and beyond and has no gender bias.

Bob Shriver was kind of a hero to me. He was the type of person who shaped my life, both personally and professional. My dad John is also a hero to me, as you can imagine. He and my mother (Florence) molded my brother (Jeff) and I and taught us from the beginning to respect our elders and all people we deal with on a daily bases. They also taught us it is much better to give than to receive as they had learned growing up in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Wilkes-Barre is a city of many ethnic peoples who worked hard in the mines and factories. The word about Wilkes-Barre at one time was the people who lived there would give you the shirt off their back.

I have many heroes today, like Hank Aaron (Home Run King), President Richard Nixon, Steve Jobs (Apple Computers), Steve Ballard (Chancellor at East Carolina University), JayD Schlueter (Great Civic Leader), Frank Feeney (was my second father and taught me to ski and introduced me to the National Ski Patrol). But the two heroes I enjoy most today (in addition to my Father) are both my son’s Dare and John Carter. Both these young men have proven to me that young people today can carry on the tradition of being good citizens and caring for people and being successful in life. Dare is an officer and Ranger in the United States Army and John Carter has been successful in sales management with ADP in Newport Beach, CA. I also think their mother Sky Larson had a great deal to do with their direction (Thanks Sky).

I would also like to recognize the individuals who helped me with our mission. They are, Jeff Vencill, Jay Jones, Debbie Burak, Teresa Johnson, Rennie Lutz and many others on our board and community boards. Without their passion, this could not have happened.

In 2011, after dealing with my parent’s situation, we decided to start a company called Assisted Financial Services (AFS) whose mission is to help the senior community by paying their bills under a limited power of attorney at Independent and Assisted Living Communities across the country. This company is proving to be a good idea and led me to understand my real calling to make even a greater difference by creating “The Johnny O Alzheimer’s and Dementia Awareness Foundation.

Our road will be long and adventurous and hopefully some day we will stop this disease in its tracks. As you can see we are on a mission… as the Blue’s Brothers stated, “A MISSION from God”. We can only get there with people like you. We have multiple ways you can support The Johnny O Alzheimer’s and Dementia Awareness Foundation.

WE CHALLENGE YOU TO take a moment to look at our website to see if there is a way you can help us with donations, time and support. Please also tell (4) friends today about our mission and encourage them to participate. All of you must know someone who has had this disease.


Thank you for your kind consideration,

Mark ORavitz
Founder and CEO