2006-06-01 / Top Stories

Center That Helped Elderly AIDS Walker Is Closing

By Charles Rogers

Cathy Adrian, right, stands with therapist Cindy Newton of V.I.P. Center, whom she credits with getting her "in shape" enough to complete the AIDS Walk recently. Sadly, center will close June 30 unless more funding is received.  Charles RogersCathy Adrian, right, stands with therapist Cindy Newton of V.I.P. Center, whom she credits with getting her "in shape" enough to complete the AIDS Walk recently. Sadly, center will close June 30 unless more funding is received. Charles Rogers The AIDS Walk that took place on May 20th is not competitive, in the classic sense. That is, at the finish line, no one is announced a winner or a loser. Just finishing the six-mile trek is what counts. Garnering public awareness, productive donations and expressing compassion as the walkers complete the event are sufficient reasons for taking part in it.

Seventy-two-year-old Cathy Adrian, who took the walk "like a breeze," is one of those winners. A proud winner.

Adrian is a client of Canarsie's Michael Spiegelman V.I.P./C.S.S. Day Program for Seniors at 1310 Rockaway Parkway, which is scheduled to close soon, and said she was "proud and happy" to have been able to take part in the event. The AIDS Walk took place in Manhattan and went from the Band Shelter in Central Park, over to Riverside Drive and traversed the streets of the East Side until returning to the park.

"A little over three years ago I was using a cane and I wasn't able to do it," she said, "but thanks to V.I.P.'s programs and the therapist who worked me hard, I got better and better and I made it."

Physical Therapist Cindy Newton, who works for the center, said Adrian was a "good student." She still has her and about 30 other clients walking through the corridors of the building multiple times so they can build themselves up physically.

Adrian said the reason she took part in the recent walk was not only tied to how she feels, physically, but "I felt I had the ability to help other people now, whereas at one time I just couldn't."

She said she takes part in these events because of a compassion for those who aren't able to help themselves. She also said she knew an AIDS victim who passed away at age 40.

"This program and others like it have helped a lot of people," she added. "That's another reason I participate: I want to give something back."

Adrian is no stranger to these altruistic walks, having taken part in last year's three-and-a-half-mile Walk for Breast Cancer in Prospect Park. She and other clients of the V.I.P Center also conducted their own "Walk-a-thon" in 2003 so they could raise money for AIDS orphans in Burkina Faso, Africa.

"They raised more than $500 so 24 orphans in that West African country whose parents died of AIDS could go to school for a year," said Marie Kelleher, director of clinical operations at the center, noting that the seniors were honored recently by African Action on AIDS, Inc., an organization created in 1990 to help improve the welfare of children orphaned by AIDS.

But there is now a damper on all this Good Samaritanism: Despite the courage shown by clients like Cathy Adrian, administrators like Ms. Kelleher and workers like therapist Newton, sadly, the Spiegelman V.I.P./C.S.S. Day Program in Canarsie is due to close by the end of June.

"We just found out about it," said Kelleher, "and we've written a few letters, but we're afraid there won't be enough money to help us in time." She was told to contact local elected officials, including City Councilman Charles Barron, Senator John Sampson and Assemblyman Alan Maisel, along with Congressman Ed Towns, with the hope that they may be able to at least extend the time element.

"It would be a sad time if we were closed," Ms. Kelleher said. "So many people have been helped, including those youngsters in Africa. We'd hate to stop now."

Those who might be interested in helping can call or write to their elected representatives. The sooner the better.

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