Playing bridge for a great cause and having fun at the same time
It’s time to toast the 5th Coffee Break bridge party with co-hosts, from left, Heather Wilson Boast and Noreen Holbrough. (Geoff Dale Photo)
INGERSOLL – Five years ago good friends and neighbours Heather Wilson-Boast and Noreen Holbrough mulled over the idea of hosting a bridge party to raise funds for the Alzheimer Society of Oxford’s popular Coffee Break.
They have a very personal connection as both of their spouses are living with some form of dementia. Learning of his condition in 2012, United Church Minister Carmen Holbrough has non-fluent primary progressive aphasia, which gradually hinders language skills.
Adjusting to subsequent lifestyle changes the Holbrough family has been proactive on many fronts, participating in, supporting, advocating for and speaking on behalf of several Alzheimer Society of Oxford programs.
Heather’s husband Charlie Boast, who was diagnosed with vascular dementia and Alzheimer’s disease in 2009, is the popular spokesperson for both Coffee Break and the Walk for Alzheimer’s.
The Boast family, including daughter Meghan and grandchildren Addison and Brookston are active in numerous activities including the annual Walk.
As for Heather and Noreen’s commitment to host Coffee Break bridge parties, it seemed a natural choice and one that has brought them a great deal of pleasure, satisfaction and success in raising funds for the Alzheimer Society of Oxford.
“We play in the same bridge group so I suggested this was a perfect fit for us,” said Noreen. “We both love the game and felt this would be such a great fundraising idea for a program that reaches out to so many people in Oxford County.
“We were a bit apprehensive initially but for our first outing many people showed up and they loved the event. It was easy to stage and such a lot of fun for everyone, us and participants. Everyone loves socializing while raising funds that go directly into local programs.”
The unique event’s fifth anniversary begins 1 p.m. Friday, September 27 in Ingersoll’s First Baptist Church’s comfortably spacious annex with a group of 24-28 bridge enthusiasts expected to gather. It’s an event many have eagerly waited for since the previous outing ended.
“The church plays such a great part in our venture,” said Heather. “The annex is a lovely, long living room that is very easy to set up nicely. As well, we are so appreciative of the tasty treats and refreshments from sponsor Tim Horton’s.
“We have felt such a sense of community and genuine support from the onset, hoping and keeping our fingers crossed after each event that we we’ll able to do it again and again. While it was established as a fundraiser for participants to make much-appreciated donations, it is much more than that.”
The two hosts say the Alzheimer Society of Oxford assists making the get-together easy to stage by providing a Host Kit with requisite information, forms to sign and other necessary material/support to make the day a success.
“We distribute score cards, welcome and thank participants for their support and show them where the basket is for donations,” added Heather. “Serving coffee, tea and desert, we offer some facts about dementia and then we play. The 20 hands of bridge are about three wonderful hours of socializing with friends old and new.”
Heather’s daughter Meghan also enjoys participating in the annual event, supplying an assortment of prizes from direct sales company Thirty-One – for whom she works as a consultant.
The Alzheimer Society of Oxford supplies a Tim Horton’s gift card which the hosts graciously award to the individual with the lowest score, ensuring that all have fun irrespective of whether they have the best hand.
“We’ve found over the past five years that people love this idea,” Noreen said. “The Society is always on the lookout for new ideas that will interest people so we’re very happy our bridge party has become such a success.
“We change it up a bit every year which keeps participants happy and eager to find out what surprises there might be in store for them. This is local people helping more than 2,000 individuals, family and friends in Oxford County living with dementia. Donations help the Society continue excellent volunteer/staff-run programs and services.”
Some stage Coffee Break parties with their families at Thanksgiving while others opt for wine and cheese or coffee and muffin get-togethers. It can be as simple as putting on a pot of coffee and inviting co-workers to make a donation or as involved as a dinner party or games night.
“Anyone interested in holding projects of their own can call the Alzheimer office (519-421-2466 or 1-877-594-2368) or email [email protected],” Heather said. “They are all so accommodating and delighted to supply whatever information you need. Financial donations certainly benefit us as a family along with so many others.
“Our bridge party gives us the opportunity to provide information, tell folks what’s happening in Oxford and share news about the Alzheimer Society of Oxford’s great work on a day-to-day basis.”