Chicago musicians with Make Grandma Smile busk on streets to benefit Alzheimer's patients

CHICAGO (WLS) -- All over town, groups of local musicians have hit the streets, busking to benefit Alzheimer's patients.

"Music and art and creative learning have been taken on as an actual treatment," said Jason Heidel of Make Grandma Smile. "What we would call a care plan."

The performances are meant to bring awareness to an organization which matches performers with assisted living facilities. Artistic professionals are part of a comprehensive program to help seniors with socialization.

"When you're dealing with Alzheimer's and dementia specifically, they feel like they fail all day long and, as an artist, I know what it's like to fail," Heidel explained. "So I can find any way to set them up to succeed every day in little ways. Just little ways, every day."

The organization, which he founded, is called Make Grandma Smile.

"I had a mentor for a little bit about five years ago that always told me that if it makes the audience smile, it's worth it. And I took that to heart, not just as an idea but as a way to live," he said.

Now they are hoping to provide out-of-work musicians with a paid platform as the group takes the concept to all kinds of assisted living facilities, both in person and through streaming services. The goal is to make even more grandmas smile.

"So it's kind of my job to keep on telling these seniors' stories and hope that one day someone will tell mine," he said.

Make Grandma Smile is having an Aging and Alzheimer's telethon on August 5 from 7 to 10 p.m.
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