It’s like selling coffee to a college student: An easy fundraiser for The Longest Day
Britta Verhey, a junior at Stanford University, was in search of an easy fundraiser to support The Longest Day®. Knowing that college students love coffee, she took the idea of a lemonade stand and turned it into a coffee cart. Together with her sorority, they sold nearly 100 cups of coffee, raising more than $300 in one morning. Britta supports the Alzheimer’s Association® in honor of her grandmother, Sharon, who died with Alzheimer’s in 2021.
The story of her grandmother
Britta Verhey was just 10 years old when her grandmother, Sharon, started showing signs of dementia. Because of her age, Britta never really had a chance to know who her grandmother was without the disease. Through the stories her family told her, she learned of Sharon’s selflessness and how much she loved and cared for her own children. She learned that Sharon started a bible group in Reno, Nevada, where they lived, and always cared more about others than herself.
However, the woman Britta knew as her grandmother, was the one that forgot birthdays, left things in the microwave and repeated stories. “We knew something was wrong,” said Britta. “My dad is a doctor, but no one wants to believe something is wrong.”
Caring for Sharon
Despite their disbelief, Sharon was taken to a doctor and diagnosed with dementia. She continued to spend the next several years with her husband, who became her primary caregiver. Eventually Sharon started wandering around her neighborhood and it was decided that she needed to move into a care setting. The family found one in Texas near Sharon’s daughter’s home.
In the later stages of the disease, Britta, now a high school senior, went to visit her grandmother in Texas. “The whole family came to visit her, and she didn’t know who we were,” said Britta. “But [I think] somewhere deep down she knew who we were. Her eyes lit up when she saw her grandkids. She had so much love and I don’t think you forget love.”
Ten years after she first started showing symptoms, Sharon died in 2021.
Connecting with resources
While her grandmother was still alive, Britta knew she wanted to help other families going through the same thing as hers. Her father had used the Alzheimer’s Association resources to better care for his mother which included things like the website (alz.org) and 24/7 Helpline (800.272.3900). Britta decided that volunteering with the Association would do a lot of good.
Through her father’s research they came across The Longest Day, one of the Association’s signature fundraising events. She reached out to the local office in Reno and, as a junior in high school, offered to help.
The Longest Day
The Longest Day is the day with the most light — the summer solstice. The Longest Day participants fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s and all other dementia through a fundraising activity of their choice on a day that works for them. With sports tournaments, card games, parties, baking and more, participants raise funds to advance the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association®.
“I definitely wanted to find a way to give back to the community and the Alzheimer’s Association is a great way to do that,” said Britta. “I’ve been volunteering for four years and found great community within that as well and it’s been awesome to be a part of this Association. [After moving from Reno to the Bay Area for college] I was able to continue [volunteering for The Longest Day].”
Meeting new people
One of Britta’s roles as a volunteer is calling people who have registered for The Longest Day, either this year or in past years. She has found that making these calls easily fits in her schedule as a college student at Stanford University.
“If it’s during finals, I’m always told to take care of school first,” said Britta. “You can put in as much [time] as you want to. It affects so many people with so many different backgrounds. It’s been so fun hearing about where they come from and why they’re involved. I love to hear someone’s story and talk about people.”
Encouraging students to volunteer
During her time as volunteer, Britta has connected with many different people and has seen her network expand. She encourages other high school and college students to become volunteers for The Longest Day so they can get the same benefits she’s found.
“[Being a volunteer has] taught me a lot of skills on how to time manage,” said Britta. “I’ve learned a lot through people in the Association especially career wise. Having older mentors is important. It’s great to see people in different stages of life and careers as well.”
In 2023, Britta, who is now a junior in college, was talking with the philanthropy chair at her sorority, Alpha Phi, to brainstorm ideas on easy fundraisers. Together they came up with an idea to sell coffee in a high traffic area on Stanford University’s campus.
While Alpha Phi’s main philanthropy is typically one that involves heart health, because so many women in the organization have a connection to Alzheimer’s or another dementia, they agreed to use the funds raised from selling coffee to support The Longest Day.
The coffee cart
On a cool Sunday in March, Britta and 10 of her sorority sisters took a folding table and a coffee maker from their house and set it up in White Plaza on Stanford’s campus. The women bought coffee beans, cold brew and flavored syrups from the grocery store, decorated the table and sold coffees for $4 each.
The women talked about the disease with customers and did so well they had to go back to the store to buy more supplies. “People were open to spending money on the coffee because they were probably going to be spending it on Starbucks anyway,” said Britta. “We had 10 people manning the table to call attention to it, and it was fun to hang out with the girls.”
Britta and her sorority sisters sold nearly 100 cups of coffee that day, raising over $300.
The power of fundraising
During her time with the Association, Britta has seen the power behind fundraising. In the last four years Britta watched as several new treatments came on the market. All of which were made possible by the fundraising and advocacy efforts of the Association.
The Alzheimer’s Association is the world’s largest non-profit funder of research and is committed to accelerating the global effort to eliminate Alzheimer’s and all other dementia. The Association currently has more than $360 million invested in over 1,000 active projects in 53 countries spanning six continents.
Despite this success, Britta knows there is a long way to go as there still isn’t a cure. “We don’t know how [the disease] comes about,” said Britta. “I think [that with] more research and research funding we’ll be closer to finding out what causes it and then we’ll be closer to curing it.”
You can help bring us closer to finding a cure by joining Britta’s team, xxx, or starting your own team for The Longest Day at alz.org/thelongestday. Sign up and raise by December 21, 2023 for a chance to earn extra incentive prizes.