In 1988, artist, Selly Jenny, and art teacher, Marilyn Oropeza, together with the Alzheimer's Association of Orange County (AAOC), developed the Memories in the Making® art program. When Selly’s mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, Selly became disheartened by the lack of meaningful activities for those who suffered from memory loss. As a painter, Selly wondered if art could provide a means of expression, rather than the complicated structure of speech. Selly's hunch about art and Alzheimer's was more than right. Alzheimer's artists, even those in later stages of the disease, already living in care communities, filled their canvases with bright colors. They produced images from their childhood and pleasant scenes of past vacations and honeymoons. In addition, Selly and Marilyn identified the importance of venerating the artists by celebrating the artwork they created. AAOC continues to do so, celebrating the art produced with an annual Art Exhibit and Artist Tea.
Ten years later, LaDoris “Sam” Heinly, MSW, became involved with Memories in the Making. As an advocate of the program, Sam joined the AAOC in 1988. Her dedication and zeal proved instrumental in managing and growing the program. During her 15 plus years of involvement, Sam wrote "I'm Still Here" and developed the “The Memories in the Making® Training Manual.” In addition, she developed a training module with the purpose of instructing art facilitators in the Memories in the Making Program, which she presented both nationally and internationally. She was a sought after speaker for the program and was able to generate interest which led to the tremendous growth of the program. Her passion, warmth, and knowledge were contagious, as she graciously worked to ensure that the program's benefits would reach as many people as possible. This was her mission and life fervency. In Sam’s own words, “The therapeutic value of art has led me to search for a practical application. Specifically it is my interest to apply the creative process with individuals experiencing minimal communication abilities, often as the result of illness. It is my observation that individuals who are given a way of expressing their feelings experience lessened anxiety and have a greater peace of mind.”
Since its establishment, the program has grown and is used throughout the nation at various Alzheimer's Association chapters and partnering care communities.