12-year-old Bethesda boy organizes Catch-a-Thon to help his grandfather

by Ashley Coleman

A day at the ballpark took on special meaning today in Montgomery County.

Max Portnoy, 12, of Bethesda organized the "Catch-a-Thon" as a way to raise money to help his grandfather, who's suffering from a severe form of dementia.

"Well, I love baseball and my grandfather so I thought it would be fun if I combined the two so I could play baseball to help my grandfather," says Max .

Rabbi Hershel Portnoy is suffering from a debilitating form of dementia called FTD (frontotemporal dementia). The former Army chaplain cannot speak or eat or even leave his home.

"It's really hard for me, because I can't really communicate with him at all, so it's hard to know what he's thinking," Max says.

For three hours on Sunday afternoon, max and his classmates and friends from Little League play catch inside a church gym. With each toss of the ball they raise money for the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration.

Nearly $17,000 has been raised so far, money that will help pay for research into the disease that affects 50-60,000 Americans like Max's grandfather.

"This is a way for us, a lot of people that he touched, to come together and say, now you need us. You need our help and they can now give something back to him," says Aryeh Portnoy, Max's father.

Halfway through the "Catch-a-Thon" something special happens. Max's grandfather calls in on Skype from his home in New York.

"My Zady is watching us right now on Skype, so I just wanted to say, 'Zady this is for you and I love you,'" Max says to his grandfather and the crowd. "Thanks and I hope everyone has fun today."

Max is overjoyed by the support for his grandfather.

"Yeah I think he's really proud of me," he says.