By Lisa Ingrassia-Neuman
The night began with me addressing a packed room of painters with the following, “I’m going to ask a few questions. If they apply to you, please keep your hands up. Raise your hand if you have a loved one who has suffered from a stroke. Raise your hand if you have a loved one who suffers from Alzheimer’s. Raise your hand if you have a loved one who suffers from dementia. Raise your hand if you have a loved one living with multiple sclerosis. Raise your hand if you have a loved one who is a head and neck cancer patient.” The list of individuals affected by a swallowing disorder is endless, and at that point the entire room had their hands up. I then told my guests, “And that, folks, is the reason why we are here to paint it forward, for everyone feeling isolated by living with a swallowing disorder.”
I founded the Albert J. Ingrassia fund after my father fought a very long brave battle with complications from Stage IV head and neck cancer. He suffered from severe dysphasia and spent the last four years of his life living on a PEG tube, unable to eat or drink orally. When my father lost his ability to eat, I lost a tremendous piece of my heart.
Our entire society revolves around food and meals. For people with dysphagia, like my Dad, life as you know it ceases to exist. Several studies conclude that between 300,000 and 600,000 individuals in the United States are affected by a neurogenic dysphagia each year. 10 million Americans are evaluated each year for swallowing difficulties. Because this disorder cuts across so many diseases, dysphagia is poorly understood and often under diagnosed. It is my personal mission to raise awareness and help the countless patients and families living with dysphagia.
Each year, I host Paint and Sip night where a portion of the ticket sales go to the Albert J. Ingrassia fund, a special endowment fund with the National Foundation of Swallowing Disorders.
On May 6th, nearly 45 people attended the Albert J. Ingrassia Paint It Forward held in Red Bank, NJ. We are truly blessed to be supported by so many people and to have held this event for the second year in a row. Words cannot describe how incredible it was be surrounded by people who are touched by our mission and story. To know that our efforts are truly having an impact is what continues to motivate us.