Flag football game to benefit Alzheimer’s Association
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – Though the weather has finally made it feel like spring outside, a fall sport will be taking to the field Saturday, May 12.
The Alzheimer’s Association – Greater Wisconsin Chapter will hold its annual RivALZ Blondes vs. Brunettes women’s flag football game.
Now in its third year in the Green Bay area, the annual event has served as a fundraiser for the Alzheimer’s Association since beginning in 2016.
“Alicia Schram, who worked here (for the Alzheimer’s Association) at the time, she thought this would be a great event, given Green Bay is the home of football,” said Jessica Anne French, captain of the Brunettes. “I’ll never forget the day that she called me talking about this. There’s 40 other cities that do this (event) in the country, and Green Bay could (have) the potential to have the biggest fundraiser.”
French, who noted Schram asked her to field a team for the Brunettes, said she has been involved in the event for all three years along with five to six of her friends.
Both teams, which already have been set for this year, have 30 players with each player having to raise at least $250 to participate.
The goal for the 2018 game is to raise $50,000 with approximately $30,000 already being raised leading up to the Mother’s Day weekend Saturday game, which is being held at the Green Bay Southwest High School football field with kickoff set for 1 p.m.
“Our first year we raised roughly $15,000, last year we raised $38,000 and this year we’re hoping for $50,000,” French said.
Leading up to the game, the players are involved in a variety of events to raise funds.
“We get a lot of local businesses involved to do little footballs that people can donate to – to get their name on the wall,” said Karinda Jennings, captain of the Blondes. “We have different events like yoga, volleyball, things that we put on as fundraisers.”
Those attending the game will be able to help with the fundraiser.
Tickets may be purchased in advance for $8 each or at the gate for $10. There won’t be a charge for children to attend with those 18 and under being admitted free.
A 50/50 raffle is also planned for the game. A link to online ticket purchases can be accessed at alz.org/gwwi by clicking on “RivALZ Green Bay – May 12.”
“It’s for a good cause,” French said. “It’s a family-friendly event, so people 18 and under can get in totally free…. (The Green Bay Elite dance team) is going to be performing during our halftime.”
Not only will the two teams be competing on the field to score the most points, they will also be in a fundraising competition as to which team can raise the most money.
The two teams have split honors for fundraising the past two years.
Abbe Klein, Alzheimer’s Association – Greater Wisconsin Chapter marketing manager, said the proceeds from the event fund the organization’s care and support services.
“We have free classes for people across Wisconsin, and these classes help people just educate them on the disease,” Klein said. “And it can be for people who are facing the disease, have a family member with it or maybe it’s professionals who want to know how to deal with it in the workplace. They help them navigate the challenges of the disease.
“We have a helpline and it supports that. It also goes toward our research advancement. The Alzheimer’s Association is the largest association in the world that conducts research dedicated to finding a cause and cure for Alzheimer’s. And it goes towards our advocacy efforts. We have volunteers and staff that regularly meet with our legislators to tell them about different bills that are in the pipeline that will improve the lives of people with Alzheimer’s.”
For the win on the field, which the Brunettes have claimed for the past two years, the winning team receives the “Bevvy Cup,” which is named after Schram’s grandmother, Beverly, who passed away because of Alzheimer’s.
French also has a personal interest in being involved in the game after having a grandmother pass away from dementia, of which Alzheimer’s is the most common form.
“You never really can predict how hard it’s going to be on your family with caretakers and bills stacking up, stuff like that,” French said. “I’ll never forget the last time I played cards with my grandmother and she couldn’t even sort her cards. It was just really hard. So, I play for my grandmother. My sister’s also on the team…. Alzheimer’s runs in my family. Hopefully they find a cure before I get to that point in my life.”
“Everybody plays for their own reasons, but I think they’re all very similar,” Jennings added. “They all support the cause, and Alzheimer’s is just so prominent.”
The captains noted the players have a variety of professional backgrounds and range in age from their 20s to 50s with most being in their 30s.
Both teams, which have their own coaches, have been practicing on their own as well as having a combined practice in preparation for this year’s game.
B.J. Hill of the Green Bay Blizzard returns as head coach of the Brunettes for the third year in a row, while Anne Wettstein, quarterback of the former Green Bay Chill in the LFL, is back to quarterback the Brunettes.
Though the teams are named after different hair colors, the captains noted that doesn’t determine who can play on which team.
“There are brunettes on the Blonde team and blondes on the Brunette team,” French said. “If you and your boss are coming to this and looking to do a team-building challenge, we don’t want to split the girls up.”
French said she hopes the event grows in the future so that for the 50th annual game it will be held at Lambeau Field and have a fundraising goal of $1 million.