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06/16/09 12:31 AM ET

Girardi hosts Alzheimer's fundraiser

Manager's 'Catch 25 Foundation' has second-annual gala

NEW YORK -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi devoted his off-day to a cause near and dear to his heart, hosting a fundraiser to benefit Alzheimer's research.

Girardi's "Catch 25 Foundation" organized its second-annual "Remember When, Remember Now" gala on Monday at New York's Grand Central Oyster Bar. Girardi's father, Jerry, is afflicted with Alzheimer's disease.

"It's all about raising awareness and funds to find a cure for Alzheimer's," Girardi said. "Our Catch 25 foundation, we believe, is moving forward, and actually it's my wife's baby. Kim came up with the idea and, like a good husband, I just follow directions."

Girardi was joined by a lineup including former big leaguers and Yankees broadcast personalities David Cone, John Flaherty and Al Leiter, as well as the YES Network's Michael Kay, whose mother, Rose, suffered from Alzheimer's before passing away in 2006.

"One way or another, it's probably going to affect all of us to some degree," Girardi said. "Whether it's a loved one who has it, whether it's one of us who has it, or whether a friend's loved one who has it -- to me, early detection is important and learning how to deal with the disease.

"It's understanding that it's not something the person who is afflicted with it wants to go through. They don't want to forget things, they don't want to misplace things. They can't help it, and how do we help them?"

Jerry Girardi's decline was less accelerated than many, thanks to early detection. Now 77, the elder Girardi was initially diagnosed as showing signs of Alzheimer's in the late 1990s.

Medication helped stall the inevitable onset of memory loss, but by 2006, Jerry Girardi had to be checked into an assisted care facility in Illinois. His caregiver, Judy Shea, was honored Monday to receive an inaugural award named in her honor.

"Judy really helped my father live with dignity, helped my father enjoy life to the fullest, even when he couldn't remember where he put his car keys," Girardi said.

"They traveled together, she took him to Italy and they'd never been there. You realize how important caretakers really are, and she's more than a caretaker. She really loves my father."

Among the other celebrity guests present on Monday were Sara Moulton, the former Food Network star and host of "Sara's Weeknight Meals" on public television, New York Giants wide receiver Steve Smith, ESPNews anchor Mike Yam and CBS Sports' Jim Nantz, whose father Jim Sr. suffered from Alzheimer's.

Moulton received the Ruth Friedman Tribute Award, which honors the memory of the Oyster Bar executive chef Sandy Ingber's mother in law, who suffered from Alzheimer's. The Oyster Bar donated all of the food for Monday's event, helping to maximize donations for research.

Yam was presented with the Joan Pasheluk Tribute Award for raising awareness of Alzheimer's in the media. Lou-Ellen Barkan, the president of the New York City chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, was also honored with the Catch 25 Champion Award.

Girardi said that before Monday, the Catch 25 Foundation had already distributed more than $80,000 to aid Alzheimer's research.

The beneficiaries of Monday's event were the NYC chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, the Central Illinois chapter based in Peoria and the Alzheimer's Research at the Texas Medical Center's Neurological Institute.

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.