We spoke with bridge club owner and American Contract Bridge League (ACBL) accredited teacher Silvana Scotto Morici about her involvement in the Alzheimer’s Association event The Longest Day. Read on to learn why bridge players come back year after year to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease.
Tell us how you got involved with bridge and why you made the game your activity for The Longest Day.
I got into bridge completely by accident. I had sold the company I owned and retired at 37. It was difficult being away from work and I realized that I needed a new challenge. A woman said to me, “You have all of this free time. Why don’t you learn to play bridge?” I replied: “Sign me up!” I got to my first lesson and within two weeks my friend and I realized that we could be great at this game. Before our first competitive event, we trained with a pro, like you would for a triathlon, because we were wacky enough and had enough time on our hands.
Today, I’m the owner of a bridge club. When I was out in San Francisco and learned about the concept of bringing The Longest Day to life with a day of competitive bridge through the ACBL, I knew I could make it work – and I did! This is my 6th year raising funds and awareness for the Alzheimer’s Association through this event.
Why do you think bridge is a great activity for The Longest Day? What are your plans for The Longest Day this year?
We already play for about four hours on average, so asking people to play for a little bit longer isn’t a stretch. At tournaments, the average player would play for seven hours straight. For these players, it isn’t a big deal – they really love it.
There was another draw, too. Bridge players play for masterpoint points, and the league said that it would give more points out on The Longest Day. To our players, it’s like being paid overtime! Everyone was on board.
We are always looking to beat our numbers from the previous year and exceed our own expectations. We launch registration in the beginning of April with a commitment from 18 teams, four to seven people per team, ready to go. At this point, it’s a well-oiled machine. The initial model was set up as a fun event, and today people are so involved that it has become just another great day of playing their favorite game.
What motivates you to raise funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s disease?
My personal motivation is that my great-grandmother had Alzheimer’s; it was difficult to watch her experience the disease. Fast forward to years later and I realized as a fairly young bridge player that the older people in front of my eyes – those in the bridge community – were showing me ways to keep the brain active every day. These people try to stay healthy by constantly challenging themselves. Bridge is a sort of fountain of youth for this crowd.
What is the day-of like? How do you put together a team?
For this event, teams aren’t put together by skill but by will. We ask someone if they can play during a particular slot and then pass the baton to the next group, collectively raising at least $500. We also continually display how much everyone has raised, so it’s very competitive! No one wants to be last … everyone wants to be first. Everyone pushes each other up the ladder.
I am super impressed with how many people are dedicated to playing the entire time. Six or seven people who have played for five years straight have played every minute from beginning to end – and then want to do it all again. I am exhausted by the end of the day – bridge is taxing on the brain – but it’s also so much fun. It’s about endurance, which you need to persevere when fighting or living with Alzheimer’s disease.
We heard that you have a particularly exciting story about fundraising on The Longest Day.
I sure do. One woman said to me: “If you hit $100,000, I will match it.” She only told me. So there I was behind the scenes, staying quiet but secretly stirring. I kept saying to the larger group, “I can’t tell you why, but we need to hit $100,000.”
There was no way I would let this not happen. We were so close. People were pulling out their wallets, writing checks. I told people to stop playing and to call home. We asked people to donate $5, $25. When we got close, the woman said I could tell the group about the match. By the time we told everyone, we overdid it; we raised $8,000 more than we needed! We made that happen together.
The bridge community is a super bright and involved community. I know people who are older than 100 who work to keep active mentally and physically. When our community flexes its abilities, it helps those living with Alzheimer’s. The funds and awareness raised through playing bridge does so much for so many people, and I am proud to be part of this community.
About Silvana: Owner of the Sagamore Bridge Club, a TAP certified bridge instructor, a certified Bridge Director and an ACBL Life Master, Silvana is fighting to end Alzheimer’s on The Longest Day. Visit her page here.