Playing cards for a cause

Lakeview Foundation bridge marathon fundraiser marks its 50th anniversary

Gazette photo by Avery Cropp
Lakeview bridge marathon participants Marie Olsen, left, Mary Meinecke, Marie Delahunt and Carolyn Leys play bridge at Olsen’s house on Monday.

It was 1962 when Lakeview Hospital nurse Bonnie Nutting proposed playing a bridge marathon to raise funds for an annual nursing scholarship given on behalf of the hospital’s auxiliary.

The first bridge marathon season 50 years ago cost $1 to enter and charged 50 cents per round after that. The auxiliary raised $309 that year.

Since then, Nutting passed away and the auxiliary changed its name to Friends of Lakeview, and more recently to the Lakeview Foundation.

But the bridge marathon plays on thanks to Nutting’s daughter, Barb Dahlke, who is the current event chairwoman. The entry fee is now $10 and each additional round, usually resulting in eight to 15 rounds, costs $2. That allowed the Foundation to raise a little more than $2,000 last year.

The marathon started in 1962 when the auxiliary was trying to figure new ways to raise scholarship money.

“My mother knew an awful lot of people played bridge so about one or two years after my dad died, she took it on and had the energy and time to do it,” Dahlke said.

Nutting chaired the bridge marathon from 1962 until her death in 1987. Dahlke helped her mother in her later years and started managing the summer session in 1983. She took over as marathon chairwoman after her mother’s death.

Dahlke said the main reason people participated was because the marathon was a social event.

“In this community you have to understand that 70-plus year olds didn’t have computer games as a seventh-grader,” Dahlke said.  “Bridge was a social entertainment. Mother and dad would always have another couple over to our house for bridge night on Saturdays and by golly they’d play for money, but the money would go into a pot and once they had enough money they’d go out to dinner one night. It was a big social thing.”

Which might explain why the bridge marathon has been successful. Over the last 49 years, the marathon has raised almost $66,000 for scholarships during their fall and winter seasons. They’ve also raised more than $16,000 from their summer sessions over the last 29 years.

One of the several Foundation scholarships awarded is named after Nutting. Lakeview Foundation Development Director Ruth Hogenson-Rutford said all the scholarships are awarded to persons involved in healthcare delivery. These particular scholarships are given out to nurses, medical students, physical therapy students and radiology students in the area.

“I think it’s incredible and it really shows the strong dedication to the culture of community in the St. Croix Valley is alive and well,” said Paul Erickson, executive director of Lakeview Foundation. “We think it’s a real blessing that Barb has continued to carry on the tradition. I love that Barb is still very passionate and it’s just a joy for her to continue this. She enjoys bridge, she’s very passionate about it, and for her knowing that she is helping students pursue their careers in the area of health and wellness is a wonderful thing for her.”

Although some marathon members have stopped playing bridge due to age and health, Dahlke said those still participating enjoy the social aspects of the game and are inspired by helping others.

“Bridge really helps you exercise your brain and be cognizant of what is around you,” she said. “I like the sociability and I get to play and do something I really enjoy. Also the fees are so nominal and because of the number of people involved you make a lot of money and it’s a good thing. It makes you feel good.”