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The Dirty Little Quilt

Few fundraisers offer soiled merchandise for sale, not if they expect a decent price for it. The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative (www.AlzQuilts.org) however will be auctioning a rather unusual quilt in mid-November and they're hoping the dirt will actually help it earn more money for Alzheimer's research.

The quilt, measuring just 20" x 24", was constructed from a purple bandana, and a piece of cloth that used to be white. The items were hand- (er, head-?) carried to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro by Jean Barnas Haratsaris during the 2006 "Ascent for Alzheimer's."

Haratsaris, Education & Training Director for the Greater Michigan Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association in Southfield, Michigan, participated in the climb to mark World Alzheimer's Day, drawing attention to the disease that affects more than 5 million Americans and 24 million people worldwide. Mt. Kilimanjaro is the largest free-standing mountain in the world and is the tallest mountain in Africa. Taking the fabric 19,340 feet to the top was no easy feet.

"Hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro was one of the most challenging experiences in my life," said Haratsaris. "Knowing that I was raising awareness about dementia at a global level and raising funds at my local level really kept me going. I also hiked in honor of my Grandma who has dementia."

The World Team, comprised of ten climbers from eight different countries, raised $280,000. Haratsaris raised $30,000. Money raised by the climbers went to fund projects and services at their local Alzheimer's Association chapters.

Kathy Kennedy Dennis from Houston, Texas, created the quilt from the well-traveled fabric, incorporating smudge marks and soil from the adventure into the design. Dennis said, "It was a privilege to honor these climbers who worked so hard to increase awareness of Alzheimer's disease and to honor their sponsors who donated so generously to support them."

A photograph of Haratsaris wearing the bandana is below her signature on the large square of splotched and stained "white" fabric that makes up the upper portion of the quilt. Haratsaris and the other nine climbers signed the fabric with black marker just before beginning the ascent in the village of Moshi, Tanzania. Their photographs, which Dennis transferred to fabric, are stitched near their respective signatures.

Below the photographs and signatures is a fabric scene of Mt. Kilimanjaro created by Dennis from a compilation of photographs. "I used part of the dirty white fabric for the snow-covered peak and the zebra bodies," said Dennis. "I stitched the bandanna onto the back of the quilt, dirt and all."

The quilt is machine stitched and machine quilted, sleeved, and ready to hang on the wall.