Foundation of America

SPARK! Program at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center, Sheboygan, Wis.

SPARK! participants make chocolate-covered strawberries

The SPARK! program at the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wis., offers free, engaging experiences for people with mild to moderate memory loss and their caregivers and friends. Through the SPARK! Program, individuals cook, visit galleries, attend performances by visiting artists, and create projects inspired by the works of art they’ve seen.

The cooking program is something that Jennifer Balge, education specialist, at the Center counts as one of her favorite activities. While it can be difficult for individuals and their caregivers to cook together at home because of supervision or safety concerns, this program pairs one volunteer with each of the 15-20 participants. The result is an enriching experience for the participant and the volunteers. For the participants, the activity often “sparks” muscle memory and transports them back to the familiar tasks of the kitchen. In addition, the activity also creates conversation, as many participants may be reminded of cooking with or for their families and share those experiences.

“I love being part of this community,” said Balge. “It’s rewarding to be able to help people in a way that they didn’t expect.”

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