By Max Wallack
Puzzles to Remember
Nestlé USAs donation is part of an award I received as one of 25 Nestlé Very Best in Youth. I will make good use of this money to provide puzzles to patients who will really benefit from them, and I thank Nestlé for their generous contribution.
I would also like to share with you some of the details and photos of my amazing visit to Los Angeles as a guest of Nestlé. Before the “official” festivities began, I had the opportunity to tour Warner Brothers Studios and Paramount Studios. Those were very interesting tours.
Most of the other “winners” arrived on Thursday. We were greeted by the smiling faces of Nestlé employees, who had set up a hospitality suite in our hotel. We were welcome to visit the hospitality suite at any time for drinks, for conversation, and, of course, for Nestle candy.
On Thursday afternoon, the boys were fitted for tuxes. (The girls had each received $100 to buy dresses.) Dinner on Thursday was our first official event. At this dinner, I met Henry, my official personal host from Nestlé USA. I cannot describe in sufficiently glowing terms how nice a person Henry is. He was friendly, encouraging, easy to talk to, and genuinely interested in and supportive of my work. Here is a photo of myself and Henry.
Dinner on Thursday was in a beautiful ballroom at the Hilton hotel. There was a surprise guest speaker. Hill Harper of CSI, New York, gave an inspiring presentation. He told the winners not to accept that something is too difficult, but to believe that we can do even more than meet our aspirations. Here is a photo of me with Hill Harper.
Even though Nestle planned for Saturday to be the most memorable day of our trip, for me, Friday will always be the most unforgettable. In the morning, we were taken to Nestlé headquarters for breakfast. Then, the winners were taken by bus to the Midnight Mission on Skid Row in Los Angeles. We packaged lunches and served lunches to the homeless who had come to the mission for food. Many of them asked me for extra packets of salad dressing. At that point, I really couldn’t understand why they wanted so much salad dressing. I wondered if they were actually eating straight salad dressing.
An eye-opening moment for me occurred when I saw a man actually get arrested in hand cuffs and taken away. What had he done? He had jumped the wall to get into the Mission grounds so he could get into the food line which had already closed.
The next time I saw Henry, I asked him why the homeless people kept asking for salad dressing, and my saddest imaginings were confirmed. These people were so hungry that they were eating salad dressing. It is one of the few things they can get “extra” of, and it has a high calorie content, which they desperately need.
I know that Alzheimer’s disease is a terrible disease, and we need treatments and cures. But, I have to say, having gone through seeing all the horrors of Alzheimer’s disease, that the plight of some of the people at the Midnight Mission is even more horrible.
Friday afternoon, all the winners were given tickets to Universal Studios. We headed out for hours of rides, shows, and fun. I noticed while I was there that many kids (not the Nestlé kids) had “front of the line” passes. They had paid an extra $72 to be able to get to the front of the lines and not have to wait to go on the rides.
That’s when I was hit by the poignant reality of my day. These people paid $72 to not wait in line for a ride while the man at the mission had been arrested for jumping a wall to get further up in line to get food because he was so hungry! That is one thought, one reality, that I will never forget.
Friday night, Nestlé took over the entire pool area at the hotel. They had a great dinner, a pool party, and a karaoke contest. Here are some photos of me singing with a group and singing alone.
Henry, my sponsor was one of the three Nestlé judges. They made us all laugh, and everyone had a great time.
Saturday, was planned as the culmination of our weekend. We had a nice breakfast together. After that, we attended break-out sessions, where the winners brainstormed about different causes and how we can make the world a better place. These were the nicest group of students with whom I have ever worked. I’m sure that every one of them will make an important difference in the world. They were all friendly, bright, ambitious, and, yet, humble.
Our Saturday night, black tie event, began at 4:30. Nestlé had taken over two ballrooms at the Hilton. They had run a red carpet down the length of the halls. The 24 winners walked the red carpet as they were photographed. Here’s a photo of me on the red carpet.
Henry sat next to me at the banquet, and we had a chance to talk. I am very fortunate to have been matched with a person of the caliber of Henry. I think he will become a lifelong friend.
Nestlé had hired a 12 piece band to entertain, and the awards were presented by the CEO of Nestlé as well as their spokesperson, Blake Griffin! Below is a photo of me receiving my award.
The music, the food, and the company were the best! I probably had just about the best time in my life. Below is a picture of me enjoying the party.
After the banquet hall closed at 11:15, the winners all went to another room to just talk and be friends. I stayed until 1:30 because my parents had asked me to not stay out after 1:30. I later found out that most others had stayed together until 3am. Even though these students were from very diverse backgrounds, we all understood each other, and we all shared common goals. We could have talked for days!
Sunday morning was our good-bye breakfast. Frankly, I had never had the experience before where people who had just met 3 days earlier were hugging each other and truly feeling sad to part; such were the connections we made.
Henry invited my family to breakfast on Monday morning, since we were staying over. Spending time with Henry is always enjoyable. Being a manager of international markets, Henry has friends all around the world. He has already made connections between his friends at BU and me. If Henry is representative of Nestlé employees, then no wonder the company is so successful!
Nestlé plans to continue to keep in touch with its winners and be supportive of their projects.
I had one more important thing to do before I could leave L.A. Back last fall, I received a phone call from a TV producer for the Fran Drescher Talk Show. She asked me to fly to L.A. to be on one of the pilot shows to talk about Alzheimer’s Disease. I wanted to, and I’m a big fan of Fran Drescher, but I just couldn’t leave all my classes at that time.
The TV producer and I spoke on the phone and by email several times, and she mentioned that she knows many people working in the field of Alzheimer’s disease, and that she would like for us to meet some time. So, on Monday, I met this TV producer for a lunch which lasted over two hours because we had so much to talk about.
On Wednesday, I’ll be returning to work at the Pharmacology lab. I love my job there. I understand a colony of mice for me to work with has been ordered while I was away. I have been working with a drug that seems to actually make a difference in the degradation of Amyloid Precusor Protein into Amyloid Beta.
Hill Harper said to believe I can outreach my aspirations. I aspire to make a real difference to patients with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.
PUZZLES TO REMEMBER. PTR is a project that provides puzzles to nursing homes and veterans institutions that care for Alzheimer's and dementia patients.