By Ken Williams | Editor
Harley owners and bridge players team up to fight Alzheimer’s disease
Two diverse groups, typically from different social settings, are teaming up to raise money for the fight against Alzheimer’s disease.
The San Diego chapter of the Harley Owners Group (HOG) and the Redwood Bridge Club are partnering to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association’s annual national fundraiser called “The Longest Day” because it is held on June 20 from sunrise to sunset on the summer solstice.
The Longest Day symbolizes the challenging journey for those diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and the families and caretakers who will be impacted by the disease that has no treatment or cure. Teams are urged to create their own fun experience as they raise money and awareness about Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s is considered a skyrocketing epidemic, as baby boomers head into their retirement years. In San Diego, more than 60,000 people live with the disease and that number is expected to double in the next 15 years. Alzheimer’s is now the third leading cause of death in San Diego, according to the association.
Robin Parker, assistant director of the local HOG group, explains why she got involved in The Longest Day.
“It is very simple,” she said. “Alzheimer’s scares the hell out of me, and I ride a Harley!
“Steve aka ‘Bear’ (my husband) and I, along with our son, live in Clairemont, very close to the houses we grew up in. Bear and our son were both born here in San Diego, I was born in California and moved to San Diego at the age of 6 months old. Bear and I bought our first Harley in 2009, and now we own three of them. We love our San Diego HOG family for reasons just like what we are talking about today: We are a family who rides Harleys and when we hear about something [like The Longest Day], we want to help anyway that we can,” she said.
The fundraiser is also about connecting people to the cause.
“A wonderful gal named Trish White from the Redwood Bridge Club reached out to us at San Diego HOG and challenged us to raise funds and awareness on The Longest Day,” Parker said. “In talking to Trish, I learned that the Alzheimer’s Association does fundraising on the longest day of the year by having individuals or teams do something they like from sunrise to sunset. The Redwood Bridge Club plays bridge and we ride Harleys, so on The Longest Day we will ride the bridges of San Diego and meet up with our friends, the bridge players at the Redwood Bridge Club in the afternoon.”
The connection has inspired the HOG group to do more to help.
“We started a team page with the Alzheimer’s Association for San Diego HOG. We have been collecting funds at our general meetings and will be collecting donations the day of our ‘Ride the Bridges’ ride. This is our first year so we are hoping to raise a lot of money,” Parker said.
For Trish White, co-captain of the Redwood Bridge Club’s The Longest Day team and one of the club’s directors, the cause is deeply personal. About five years ago, White was diagnosed with plaque on her brain, and the news was delivered to her rather bluntly.
“It was absolutely devastating,” White said. “It floored me. But I decided to go to battle against Alzheimer’s — to go down fighting! And to play bridge more.”
There is growing anecdotal and scientific evidence that playing bridge is good for stimulating the brain, especially with older folks who are challenged by health issues involving memory, dementia, Alzheimer’s and more. When White heard about that, she vowed to play more often.
“I found bridge really works for me,” she said. “I play on average three times a week.”
White calls bridge “acrobatics for the mind.” She says her club, which has 157 members, includes some people with Alzheimer’s and a gentleman who has turned 100 years old.
“Some members have Alzheimer’s and can barely get out of the house,” she said. “But they can play bridge.”
Playing bridge requires a keen mind to memorize the cards that have been played in a hand and the cards that are still in play. “Perhaps playing bridge slows down Alzheimer’s and sharpens the mind,” White wonders.
The Hillcrest resident, who lives in a high-rise dedicated to seniors, said she heard about a HOG event in Louisiana that was a successful fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association. Why not here? she wondered.
“We’ve worked on it for the past year,” White said, noting that she has never ridden on a motorcycle before. That all changed last month when the local HOG group took her for a ride on a Harley.
“I rode a hog! The music was blasting! I had so much fun!”
—Ken Williams is editor of Mission Valley News and Uptown News and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 619-961-1952.