In May of 2009, Kristin Crandall attended the annual Blue Moon Gala; an event that helps support and raise funds for the Alzheimer’s Association of Western New York. She anticipated going to the event, having a good time and lending her support to the cause. Little at the time was she aware by the time the night was over; her role in the association, as well as her life would be forever altered.
It was there she met Tracey Callisto. A member of the Alzheimer’s Association who spent years raising money via the annual Memory Walk, Callisto already had a personal bond to the cause. Her Uncle became a victim of Alzheimer’s before sadly succumbing to the deadly disease. Sometime during their conversation as a quick bond was struck, the subject of powder-puff football came up as a way to raise both awareness and money for the dreadful illness.
In 2005, Sara Allen Abbot & Ryan Triplette organized the first ever Blondes vs. Brunettes flag football game to increase awareness among young people of Alzheimer’s disease. The event was a huge success in Washington, D.C. and since then the duo has helped support similar events in several major cities around the country, including Dallas, Denver, Austin, Houston and Kansas City.
They spoke with Callisto and concluded it would be a good idea to bring the annual fundraising event to Buffalo. The planning began in July and on October 17, 2009 the first Blondes vs. Brunettes flag football game came about.
They set a goal for the 2009 game to raise $10,000. They didn’t just meet their goal— they obliterated it. By the time it was over, the contest raised nearly $25,000; an incredible amount for their first year.
The 2010 sequel was even better. Collectively, the game ended up raising upwards of $40,000.
They’ll try to increase those lofty figures this year when the third annual Blondes vs. Brunettes flag football game takes place Saturday afternoon at the field of Sweet Home High School (1901 Sweet Home Road.) Start time is scheduled for 2pm.
In advance of this year’s game, Crandall said they’ve already surpassed last year’s $40,000 total raised and are closing on $50 grand.
They’ll be plenty of beauty on both the field and sidelines. Don’t assume, however, these ladies aren’t heavily motivated to win. The inaugural contest produced a 12-12 tie and last year’s event saw the Brunettes handle the Blondes, 38-14.
Melissa Gallo dominated for the Brunettes last year, rushing for five touchdowns in a game that got extremely physical….and chippy with plenty of smack talk coming from both sides.
Even when it’s girls raising money for charity, football can be a brutal sport.
“It may be a powder-puff football game, but it’s the real deal.” Crandall said. “We have amazing coaches that really prepare us to battle it out on the field and the players are good. I mean really good.”
An Administrator at Beechwood Continuing Care’s Assisted Living Facility, Crandall didn’t know how last year’s inaugural game would play out, from both a participation and fundraising standpoint.
This time around in its third year, she has a much better idea of what to expect.
“In our first year we didn’t know what to expect,” Crandall said. “This year we’ve been able to build on that base. Our goals were to grow the size of the teams, increase the amount of donations, have greater attendance at the game, and continue to raise awareness of the disease.”
The match-up will feature more than 30 girls from each side. Crandall and Callisto both say that word of mouth, people directly involved with Alzheimer’s and social networking has been the key ingredients in recruiting such a vast number of players.
“It’s been amazing how many girls have come together for this cause,” Callisto said. “A lot of the girls participating are involved because a loved one has the (Alzheimer’s) illness. Others came aboard simply because they want to help. Word has spread, social networking has been huge for us and this thing continues to grow.”
One Blonde, Rebecca Sipprel, will be married two weeks after the game. She injured her ring finger during practice and is currently wearing a splint. Luckily her fiancé, Doug Buczak understands, as he is coaching his bride to be’s team.
The splint won’t keep her from playing come Saturday.
Christine Kotalik, a fitness model, is flying in all the way from Florida to suit up for the Blondes, as is Christie Witt of WGRZ-TV.
Local Actress & Model, Lisa Dee Hergenroder is suiting up with the Brunettes. About 5 nurses and 8 teachers that are also tackling for the cause
Members of the Buffalo Jills will also be on hand to support the event and five of their alumni are actually suiting up to play.
Tickets for the game are $20 at the door and your admission ticket will also get you into the after-party at the Ellicott Creek Volunteer Fire Company, located at 45 S. Ellicott Creek road. The ticket also gets you free good, a free well drink, raffles and photos with the winning team at the after-party.
For more information and background about the event and how you can help the Alzheimer’s Association of Western New York, visit the official Blondes vs. Brunettes website by clicking here.
(Alzheimer’s disease is a form of dementia that gradually gets worse over time. It affects memory, thinking, and behavior and unfortunately is deadly.)