The Longest Day

News from the Alzheimer’s Association Leadership Summit

By Lori Pope and Stephanie Threlkeld

For 13 years, Jan Draper’s husband, Gary, battled Alzheimer’s disease. Throughout their years fighting his illness, both Jan and Gary experienced isolation and loneliness as their friends and neighbors withdrew from them. After Gary passed in 2017, Jan decided to fundraise in support of The Longest Day, the Alzheimer’s Association’s newest fundraising event that supports the advancement of care, support and research programs related to Alzheimer’s. Jan raised more than $13,000 in her campaign, and on June 21, 2018, at the age of 76, she went skydiving in honor of her husband.

Jan’s experience as a caregiver of a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease was just one of the many stories shared during the Association’s annual Leadership Summit, held January 17-19 in San Antonio, Texas. As an inaugural partner for The Longest Day, the American Contract Bridge League was invited to send representatives, and we – ACBL’s education and communications manager Stephanie Threlkeld and public relations coordinator Lori Pope – were excited for the opportunity to learn more about how the Association utilizes funds raised by ACBL’ s clubs and members and how those programs and initiatives can help bring the game of bridge to a larger audience.

More than 1,000 Association employees and volunteers gathered to celebrate the successes made in 2018 and learn about new and exciting programs and research coming in 2019 during the Summit. For us, it was not about the recognition; it was about engaging with Association staff and research leaders to generate more interest in promoting the benefits of bridge in the communities the Association serves.

The ACBL was recognized for its contributions to the Alzheimer’s Association’s The Longest Day campaign during the Association’s Leadership Summit, which was held in San Antonio, Texas in January. Pictured from left to right are Lori Pope, public relations coordinator for ACBL; Stephanie Threlkeld, education and communications manager for ACBL; and Harry Johns, president and CEO for the Alzheimer’s Association

We were thrilled to learn the Association’s plan to invest major research funds into the U.S. Pointer Trial, a lifestyle intervention trial to support brain health and prevent cognitive decline. The two-year clinical trial will evaluate whether certain lifestyle interventions – including physical exercise, nutritional counseling and modification, cognitive and social stimulation (hello, bridge!), and improved self-management of health status – can reduce a person’s risk for cognitive decline. While the trial is still in its early stages, the fact that the Association sees value in funding research on prevention through lifestyle habits is a step in the right direction when it comes to finding scientific proof of what many bridge players already know – bridge helps keep your brain sharp.

Additionally, bridge has been added as a part of the “10 Ways to Love Your Brain,” campaign, which features lifestyle tips to help keep your brain sharp and healthy. One of those tips reads, “Stump Yourself: Challenge your mind. Build a piece of furniture. Play games of strategy, like bridge.” The Association plans on launching a social media campaign around “10 Ways to Love Your Brain” this month.

We also had the opportunity to meet with Linda Powers, the champion of the St. Louis Bridge Center’s fundraiser for The Longest Day, and wife of former University of Missouri football coach Warren Powers, who has been battling Alzheimer’s since 2014. In 2018, Linda raised more than $72,000 through their local bridge games; in fact, Linda was recognized as the second individual highest fundraiser for The Longest Day campaign across the country.

Silvana Morici with Sagamore Bridge Club on Long Island was also recognized as the top fundraising team for The Longest Day after bringing in more than $200,000 in 2018. Since ACBL began partnering with the Association on the campaign, Sagamore has raised more than $800,000 through their Longest Day fundraisers.

This year will mark the ACBL’s seventh year as the Association’s inaugural global partner for The Longest Day, and we are looking forward to bringing new energy and support to our clubs across the country who work so hard to plan and execute fabulous events to support the cause. Together, we can once again surpass our $1 million fundraising goal.

To register a team for The Longest Day, visit www.alz.org/ACBL and use promo code “ACBL” to waive the $25 registration fee. More information specific to ACBL events (including ACBLscore instructions) can be found at acbl.org/LongestDay. You can also email us anytime at thelongestday@acbl/org.