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SKANEATELES | For Anne Lynn and her fellow members of the Mixed Nuts bridge group, the longest day started at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday when they began playing bridge at the Skaneateles Country Club while watching the sun rise over Skaneateles Lake.

But, for Alzheimer's disease patients and their caregivers and families, every day is the longest day as they struggle against the illness that is stealing their loved one away from them.

And the Mixed Nuts want to provide some reinforcements in the battle against Alzheimer's. For the second time, the bridge group hosted an all-day marathon of the card game at the country club to raise funds for the Alzheimer's Association as part of its national Longest Day event.

"We're working hard trying to raise the funds to defeat Alzheimer's," Lynn said, noting she was part of a foursome that kicked the bridge marathon off just before dawn. "We were over in the corner watching the sunrise. There were four of us playing, and we played until 8:30."

With the 15-hour event split up into five three-hour playing shifts to allow the marathon to continue without the same participants playing through the whole day, Lynn said she played until 11:30 a.m. before taking a break to run the welcome table in the country club foyer.

The group playing from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. featured 40 people seated around 10 tables set up one of the country club's rooms overlooking the lake, which shone with a brilliant sun and bright blue sky.

"They look like they're very serious bridge players," Lynn said as she looked around the room.

She added that a total of around 90 would take part in the event that concluded at 8:30 p.m. Throughout the event, participants were treated to lunch and dinner and a variety of refreshments as they played.

While the Mixed Nuts fall under the jurisdiction of the American Contract Bridge League, Lynn said the event offered both duplicate and social bridge formats to appeal to serious and social players alike.

But, she said the event was not an actual competition and, instead, a just a chance for friends to get together to support a worthy cause.

"It's just a fun day to raise awareness and funds for Alzheimer's," she said. "We like to have everyone have a good time."

She added that the country club was "very welcoming" to the group and its marathon, and she noted even the security guard sported a purple Alzheimer's Association shirt as he directed people to the event.

The Longest Day, Mixed Nuts member Susan Dailey said, carries a double meaning in its name.

First, as the name implies, the event typically takes place on the summer solstice — the longest day of the year, when the most daylight reaches the earth's surface.

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This year, however, that day happens to fall on Father's Day, so the Mixed Nuts decided to move their event up a few days in order to avoid a conflict with the Skaneateles Rotary Club's Father's Day Pancake Breakfast and any player who wants to celebrate with a family member.

But, the name also symbolizes the situation that Alzheimer's sufferers and those who care for them face every day of the journey with the disease.

"For patients and their caregivers and families, it is the longest day," Dailey said. "Every day is the longest day."

Dailey noted the Alzheimer's Association is the largest and leading charitable organization helping in the fight against the disease and has a "very good charitable rating."

The local chapter, meanwhile, planned to hold events from June 19-21 and decorate private and government buildings in Syracuse in purple lights during the weekend, she said.

While the Mixed Nuts do charge participants a small fee to defray its costs associated with using the country club, Lynn said all proceeds go directly to the Alzheimer's Association as participants bring in sponsors they collected or donations they made themselves.

When the day started, Lynn said the event raised $10,000 already not counting the money to be brought in that day. With a goal of $15,000, she hoped the group could easily reach that mark as participants handed in their funds.

After the event, Lynn said participants brought in $14,000 with more money coming in. Those who still wish to donate can do so online at http://act.alz.org/site/TR/?pg=team&fr_id=6650&team_id=259301 or by sending donations to Anne Whalen, 2354 Thornton Grove, Skaneateles, NY 13152.

The Longest Day events can range from bridge games to foot races as long as they are marathons that last from sunrise to sunset, and the Mixed Nuts felt they focus on the game they get together to play regularly.

"Every one of us has had Alzheimer's touch us in one way or another," she said. "It's a perfect fit for us. We're playing bridge — something we love to do — and raising funds for a cure for Alzheimer's."

Lynn called bridge "a challenging game of strategy" that could help strengthen the mind and combat Alzheimer's as much as the money that is raised during the Mixed Nuts' marathon.

"It keeps the mind very alert to plan your strategy to try to defeat your partners in some way or another," she said. "It's a good thing for the brain and thinking processes. It's really good to guard against Alzheimer's."

The marathon would close with a sunset ceremony at 8:30 that night and, Lynn said, the hopes that a cure for Alzeimer's is found someday.

"We're so anxious to defeat the disease for the sake of our children and grandchildren," she said.

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Skaneateles Journal Editor Jonathan Monfiletto can be reached at jonathan.monfiletto@lee.net or (315) 283-1615. Follow him on Twitter @Skan_Monfiletto.

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