Kathleen Henkel started playing Solitaire with a pack of cards when she was five years old, but it took a trip to Africa and an addiction to PopCap's online game, Solitaire Blitz, to bring her to New York City to compete in a 30-hour Solitaire Blitz marathon.
Two witnesses watched as Henkel completed her fourth straight hour of Solitaire Blitz gameplay, her eyes never leaving the screen. According to Jeff Green, social media director for PopCap Games, Guinness rules require Henkel to make a move on the computer every 20 seconds, or she is disqualified.
But why would someone voluntarily spend 30 hours playing Solitaire? For Henkel, a 68-year-old grandmother, it wasn't just love of the game, or even the glory of winning a world record: she was playing for charity.
"I'm doing this to raise money for Charity: Water," said Henkel. "Whatever gets raised online goes directly to provide clean water for people that don't have access to it."
So far, people have pledged almost $90,000 on the Facebook page for the event, which allows donors to watch a live video feed and donate money hourly. A second woman, Laura Rich of Wales, is attempting the same 30-hour feat in London.
Henkel's journey began when she quit her job as a supervisor of a substance abuse program for criminal offenders in order to spend more time traveling in Africa. She saw the huge problems caused by the lack of clean water in Africa, and decided to help.
"On a small scale I'm involved in helping with clean water myself, I lived among people who had those challenges," said Henkel. "Charity: Water helps with the same problem on a much greater scale."
Now, Henkel spends her time traveling in Africa and engaging in hobbies ranging from Solitaire to African drum dancing and gardening. Originally from Queens, she currently lives in Oakland, New Jersey.
Does Henkel play any other games as obsessively as she plays Solitaire? "I occasionally play Words with Friends on Facebook," said Henkel. "Otherwise, it's pretty much only Solitaire."
Henkel continued playing, her eyes never leaving the screen as tourists gawked at her desk displayed behind full-length glass windows on the corner of New York's Lexington Avenue and 47th Street.