Natick Teen Finalist in Kids Who Give Program
Max Wallack has dedicated his time to helping Alzheimer's patients and caregivers through passion, hard work and research.
Max Wallack, a 16-year-old sophomore at Boston University, recently came in third place in the Kids Who Give program for the fall, making him eligible for the Grand Prize of $10,000 to his nonprofit. The Grand Prize winner will be chosen through online voting.
Wallack recently took the time to answer some questions from Patch.
Patch: You’re the founder of PuzzlesToRemember. What is the organization all about? What do you do, and why is it important?
Max Wallack: PuzzlesToRemember is a 501c3 organization that distributes puzzles to facilities that care for Alzheimer’s patients. Since 2008, I have distributed over 19,000 puzzles to facilities around the world. I also helped develop Springbok PuzzlesToRemember, specialized puzzles made to meet the needs of Alzheimer’s patients. These puzzles are important in many ways. They provide a quiet calming activity for a frequently agitated population. Research shows that remaining cognitively active with activities such as puzzles can postpone the point at which an Alzheimer’s patient is no long able to function in society. Also, puzzles present a great means of communication for Alzheimer’s patients since the portion of the brain involved in such creative activities is one of the last areas affected by Alzheimer’s disease. The Springbok PuzzlesToRemember are capable of providing Alzheimer’s patients with a sense of success that they seldom get to experience anymore.
Patch: How did you come up with the idea of PuzzlesToRemember?
MW: From age six through age 10, I was a caregiver to my great grandmother who lived with my family. Near the end of her life, she was in and out of hospitals and nursing facilities with the urinary tract infections that are common in many Alzheimer’s patients. When I went to visit her in these facilities, I noticed that the patients that were working on jigsaw puzzles seemed calmer and happier. I researched this, discovered the benefits, and decided to provide puzzles for this population of patients.
Patch: You’re a finalist in the Kids Who Give program, which means you have a chance to win $10,000 for PuzzlesToRemember. Why should people vote for you? If you win, what will you choose to do with the money?
MW: There are 5.4 million cases of Alzheimer’s disease in this country, with a new case being diagnosed every 68 seconds. With our aging population, Alzheimer’s disease is an oncoming tsunami that will not only bring pain and suffering but will also, on its own, devastate our health care system with its astronomical costs. If I win this money, it will be donated for research at the Boston University Alzheimer’s Disease Center. Funding for Alzheimer’s research is becoming harder and harder to find in our difficult economy, and yet it is crucial to our future. By voting for my cause, people will have the opportunity to provide funds for Alzheimer’s research at no cost to themselves.
Patch: You’re a sophomore at Boston University. What are you studying and what do you hope to do when you graduate?
MW: At Boston University, I am a neuroscience major who will graduate in 2015. I definitely plan to study further to become a Geriatric Psychiatrist, working with Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. This is my calling in life. Last year I was offered complimentary membership in the American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry, and I have been invited to give a poster presentation about my research at their 2013 annual convention.
Patch: What can you tell us about your research in the Molecular Psychiatry and Aging Lab at Boston University School of Medicine?
MW: I learn more working in this lab than I could possibly learn in any classroom. My mentors in this lab are brilliant, humble, dedicated scientists. I can only aspire to be like them. In the lab, I study various enzymes that are involved in Alzheimer’s disease, examining the correlation between these enzymes in the blood and in the cerebrospinal fluid. A correlation like this may lead to a blood test for Alzheimer’s disease at an early point in the development of the disease, a time at which treatments may be more effective. I also study various medications and their effect on the buildup of Amyloid plaques and Tau tangles in transgenic mice (with Alzheimer’s disease).
The following is some additional information on Wallack, as well as some previous accomplishments that he provided for Patch:
I have lived in Natick for my whole life. At age four, I became a Davidson Young Scholar. I went to elementary school at Wayland Academy in Framingham, and then to the Advanced Math and Science Academy in Marlborough for grades 6 through 9. For grades 10 through 12, I attended Boston University Academy, a high school on the campus of Boston University. By the time I graduated high school, I had already completed more than a year of college.
In addition to my work on PuzzlesToRemember, I’m an editor for the Alzheimer’s Reading Room, where I interact with Alzheimer’s caregivers from around the globe.
I have been involved in philanthropy since the age of 6, when I began inventing assistive devices for the elderly. Several of my inventions won national competitions, and I was inducted in the Inventor’s Digest Hall of Fame for helping people through innovation. I am a big believer in microphilanthropy; I believe that everyone, no matter how young, old, or disadvantaged, is capable of doing something to help others in society. I believe that anyone who has the ability to help another person has the responsibility to help them. I also believe that ability, devoid of hard work, produces little of value.
If you'd like to support Max Wallack's cause and help him win the Kids Who Give Grand Prize, vote here.