Games for Brains: The Longest Day

Gray Matters Games satisfies two passions for owner Joe Barron: inventing games that support brain health, and fighting to end Alzheimer’s disease.

Joe saw the toll that Alzheimer’s and dementia took in his own family. Both of his grandmothers faced the disease; one grandmother lived with her diagnosis for 12 years. Joe’s family had to make difficult decisions as his grandmothers progressed through the disease. His mom, being one of five children, found it challenging to find agreement with siblings on matters of their mother’s independence, such as her ability to drive.

Joe Barron at Walk to End Alzheimer’s 2017.

Despite the hardships that come while watching a loved one face Alzheimer’s, Joe and his family soaked up the moments they had together singing, dancing, and playing games. At one stage, Joe’s grandmother didn’t remember anyone’s name—but she remembered all the words to songs from her childhood. So, Joe and his family learned the words to a number of songs from the 1940s and 1950s and sang along with her. 

Joe Barron at Junior Board’s annual Paint the Night Purple event in 2018

Joe’s game company Gray Matters Games “promotes community, encourages fun and gives back to Alzheimer’s research.” Games can be a great activity to do with loved ones facing Alzheimer’s or dementia. Playing games helps build new memories and cherish the little moments together. Studies show that keeping your mind active and engaged may delay cognitive decline. Gray Matters Games creates games the whole family can enjoy, along with more challenging strategy games for serious gamers. 

For those who haven’t faced Alzhiemer’s or dementia firsthand, Joe says not to be afraid of reaching out and asking for help. Joe first got involved with the Alzheimer’s Association Illinois Chapter through the Junior Board. He learned about the many free, timely resources available while serving on the board. Since the disease affects over 6 million Americans, Joe says anyone you stop on the street will know someone who has been impacted by the disease. Thankfully, more and more families and businesses are joining the fight for a cure by raising awareness and funds.

Fair Game in Downers Grove, IL,

Today, Joe donates a meaningful portion of Gray Matters Games’ proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Association to fund research and support services. This year, as part of The Longest Day, Joe partnered with Fair Game in Downers Grove, IL to host the Games for Brains event. Eric Brezina of Fair Game and other members of Chicago’s bustling toy and gaming industry joined Joe to fight the darkness of Alzheimer’s disease over summer solstice weekend. The event took place on Saturday, June 19 and included a silent auction, shopping offers, and game inventors as well as entertainers. Companies included Forbidden Games, R2i Games, Fuzzy Logic Escape Rooms, Otrio: Inventor’s Edition, and Mike O’Donnell Handcrafted Magic. 

The Longest Day is all about doing what you love. Joe turned his passion for gaming into a fundraiser to end Alzheimer’s disease in honor of his grandmothers, and for families everywhere. He’s helping us get closer to a cure, one move at a time. 

Learn how to turn your favorite hobby into a fundraiser or get your business involved with The Longest Day at
Gray Matters Games
Fair Game

Tennis Tribute for Milly

Sarah and her mother, Milly O’Brien.

Sarah O’Brien Boyd will lace up her sneakers and hit the tennis court on Saturday, June 19 to participate in The Longest Day. She will play tennis from sunrise to sunset in Skokie, Illinois, in honor of her mother, Milly O’Brien. 

Milly passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in 2016. She was an extremely active person and was passionate about tennis for almost forty years. Sarah will honor her mother’s legacy this weekend by playing the sport she loved. Sarah’s friends and family will join her on the court to keep her busy all day.

Sarah is the youngest of seven children and grew up in Northern New Jersey. While her siblings on the East Coast won’t be able to cheer her on in-person, they contributed significantly to her fundraising. They also helped Sarah brainstorm some of Milly’s famous expressions which Sarah used as names for her sign up slots. Sarah shared, “When I came up with the idea of using my Mom’s expressions as time slots for my SignUpGenius, they helped me remember many of them. It was right around Mother’s Day and the 5 year anniversary of my Mom’s passing, so I think it was our way of paying tribute to her.” Her sayings included, “Believe half of what you see and none of what you hear,” and “Only boring people are bored.” Reminiscing about their mother’s songs and sayings made Sarah and her siblings laugh, providing a moment of levity on an otherwise somber anniversary. 

Sarah’s husband and children are also supporting her Longest Day activity. Her son Cameron will host his own all-day sporting event: he plans to play golf from sunrise to sunset one day next week. Sarah’s younger sons and husband plan to join her during one of her tennis slots on Saturday and cheer her on from the sidelines throughout the day. Relatives on both sides of their family have passed from Alzheimer’s and dementia, and some are living with it today.

“Obviously, there are so many needy causes out there and people tend to get involved when a disease affects them personally,” says Sarah. “So I think the more we can educate people about what happens to Alzheimer’s patients and their families, the more people will want to get involved and raise funds to fight the disease.”

Sarah’s fundraising is in full swing: she hasn’t gotten to the tennis court yet, but she already reached the elite Solstice Champion status. She started collecting donations early and raised over $11,000 for Alzheimer’s care, support and research. As Milly would say, “The early bird catches the worm.” 

Support Sarah’s The Longest Day fundraiser here, and learn more at

The Longest Day is a fundraising event focused around the summer solstice—June 20—that strives to advance the care, support, and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association. People from around the world will choose a fundraising activity of their choice to fight against Alzheimer’s.