WORTHINGTON - June 21 marks the first day of summer - the Summer Solstice - which means it’s the longest day of daylight during the calendar year.

The Alzheimer’s Association has chosen this date to bring awareness to those living with or affected by the disease. The Longest Day symbolizes the challenging journey of those living with Alzheimer’s disease and their caregivers.

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Communities across the country are planning activities for the Longest Day, including Worthington, where Center for Active Living (CAL) Director Mary Luke has organized Play-All-Day Pickleball on the center’s indoor pickleball courts. The event begins with a greeting and kickoff at 8 a.m., with the hope to have continuous pickleball play from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“With all of the pickleball players we have at the CAL, we might be able to have continuous play during the event,” Luke said, adding that if there are enough registrants, play will be opened on a second court.

There is no cost to participate in the event, and it’s open to both CAL and non-CAL members.

Luke said those who haven’t played pickleball in the past are welcome to attend, as people will be available to teach the game. To register, call the CAL at 376-6457. As of Monday, there were still time slots available from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In conjunction with the pickleball event, Luke is working with Sterling Drug and its parent company’s Astrup Foundation, which raises money for the Alzheimer’s Association, to host a fundraising luncheon at the CAL from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The menu includes pulled pork sandwiches, baked beans, chips and lemonade.

Teresa Rogers of Sterling Drug said Sterling is preparing and serving the meal, and attendees will be asked to make a free-will donation. All funds will go to support the Alzheimer’s Association.

The Astrup Foundation will match proceeds dollar for dollar, in addition to matching what its stores raise in donations during the month of June for the Alzheimer’s Association, up to a maximum of $25,000. Leonard Astrup, founder of the pharmacy chain, lived with Alzheimer’s disease until his 2014 death.

Teresa Widboom will be the guest speaker during the luncheon, speaking about her family’s experience after her mother-in-law, Gloria Widboom, was diagnosed with the disease.

“I just think it’s so important for people in the trenches with this disease to know they’re not alone,” Widboom said. “Even though you feel you are in the midst of the longest day, it’s important to create awareness and have a healthy conversation around it and not be secretive and put on a front that everything is fine.”

Widboom said the more Alzheimer’s is talked about, the more comfortable people become in approaching families who are hurting. While the disease completely changes a person, it also changes the family.

Her message will be one that cautions not to let a diagnosis steal your joy.

“We were always conscious of how easy that can happen with a disease like this,” Widboom said. “Constantly be aware and always see the positive side of it - it drew our family so much closer.”

Following the luncheon, Sterling Drug will announce the winner of a basket of items created as a raffle fundraiser.

Luke said she’d like to make the Longest Day event an annual program at the CAL to continue to raise awareness of Alzheimer’s disease.

Debbi Eddy, Community Engagement senior manager for the Alzheimer’s Association MN-NDAK Chapter, said activities are taking place in communities across the two states, from all-day swimming to playing bridge, hiking, knitting and more.

“This is a day of hope, where people will do what they love ... to honor a caregiver, someone living with Alzheimer’s or someone they’ve lost to this devastating disease,” she said.

Worldwide, there are an estimated 47 million people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, including 5.4 million in the U.S. and more than 94,000 in Minnesota.