Local bridge players partake in 15-hour matches to raise money for Alzheimer’s research

Jan O’Connor figures playing bridge for 15 straight hours on Friday ought to increase her odds that she’ll get a few good turns of the cards.

Dave Chipman, Lawrence, rubs his hat on his head as he sits through a 15-hour bridge game Friday, June 21, 2013, at the Kaw Valley Bridge Club. Local bridge enthusiasts played through the marathon-like game as a fundraiser for Alzheimer's research.

But what she is certain of is that more than 100 bridge players across Lawrence will turn more than a few good deeds for Alzheimer’s research.

Both the Kaw Valley Bridge Club and the University Bridge Club were participating for the first time in the Longest Day Event, where clubs from across the country agreed to play bridge continuously from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday to raise money for the Alzheimer’s Association.

“The response has been great,” O’Connor, a member of the Kaw Valley Bridge Club, said. “A lot of people have given money for it. There really is a lot of tenderness for what the Alzheimer’s Association is trying to do because we almost all know someone who has had the disease or cared for someone with it.”

Club members were estimating about $4,000 would be raised through the local effort. Bridge players garnered pledges from friends and family to pay a certain amount for every hour played or for every hand played.

Members aren’t required to play the entire 15 hours, but O’Connor estimated that more than a half-dozen players would complete the marathon session from beginning to end.

About 100 players were expected to play at some point during the day in Lawrence. The Kaw Valley Bridge Club’s Center in North Lawrence was hosting games continuously during the day. First Watch Restaurant, Hy-Vee Food and Drug, Alvamar Country Club, and a private residence of a University Bridge Club member hosted games at various times during the day.

The Alzheimer’s Association hosts The Longest Day fundraiser during the first full day of summer. The event encourages people to form teams and participate in any activity they enjoy — from swing dancing to swimming, the Web site says — and raise money around the activity.

The American Contract Bridge League this year agreed to partner with the Alzheimer’s Association to encourage bridge clubs to be part of the fundraiser.

“It makes sense because it is a game that works the mind,” O’Connor said.

O’Connor, 71, was one of the handful of people shooting to play the entire 15 hours. She said she hadn’t played so long since a few all-night games that took place in college.

Chris Lane, manager of the Kaw Valley Bridge Club, also was vowing to play the full session. But at about 2 p.m., she said she was not going to promise she was going to play very well near the end.

“My sand is already starting to run out,” she said.

When asked whether she did anything special to prepare for 15 hours of bridge, she had a simple answer: “I got up early.”