At Excelsior College, employees volunteer for a diverse array of charitable causes outside of work hours. Many nonprofits offer events, but this one is unique. The Blondes vs. Brunettes, is a flag football game played with women to benefit the Alzheimer’s Association of NENY. This year marks the 4th annual event, and four Excelsior employees representing various departments will hit the gridiron to raise money and tackle this debilitating disease on September 13 in Saratoga Springs, NY.
Excelsior Life sat down with fellow teammates, Amanda Stockholm (School of Business & Technology), Kim Speerschneider (Office of Strategy and Institutional Effectiveness), Kim Lourinia (Outreach & Access), and Alicia Jacobs (Institutional Advancement) who all play for the Blondes to discuss the upcoming game and share their passion for making a difference.
Excelsior Life: Can you tell us more about the charity and warning signs of this disease.
The Alzheimer’s Association of NENY, is an organization committed to the advancement of research on the disease and provides support services for those affected. Alzheimer’s is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior. Symptoms include disorientation, difficulty completing familiar tasks, deepening confusion about events, time and place; serious memory loss and behavior changes. Every 67 seconds someone in the United States develops the disease.
Excelsior Life: How long have been involved with this event?
Stockholm: Last year was my first year joining. Kim S. randomly called me the night of the recruiting event to see if I would be interested in playing. Trying flag football sounded like an interesting challenge, but having personal connection to the disease made me jump at the opportunity.
Jacobs: This is my third season.
Lourinia: This is my second season.
Speerschneider: This is my second season.
Excelsior Life: What is your position/role?
Stockholm: Last year I played slot receiver – I go by Wes Welker now. (laughs)
Jacobs: I have played offense and defense, but found I really enjoy playing center. It surprises people because of my small size, compared to other center’s.
Lourinia: Last year I found myself mostly on offense as a tight end, but when on defense I was an outside linebacker.
Speerschneider: Last year I played cornerback.
Excelsior Life: Why did you get involved?
Stockholm: When someone in your family get’s Alzheimer’s, you feel almost helpless. By learning football and being with a community of women, I felt empowered to help others in our fund-raising efforts. I honestly do not think that I have ever had so much fun playing a sport and I learned so much about football. Friendships develop so quickly with teammates. Some have personal connections to Alzheimer’s -and some just want to play flag football. I couldn’t imagine not returning for another year.
Jacobs: I was recruited a few years ago. I have always felt volunteering and giving back to the community were important. However, this was unique – women playing football, learning plays and terminology while raising money for a great cause. I have now recruited others to get involved.
Lourinia: I was recruited by Alicia while attending another charity event at Excelsior College. Growing up I always wanted to play football but never got a chance so this was my opportunity to do something I always wanted to do. I quickly realized not only am I learning something new and having fun while doing it, but I am helping to raise money and awareness for those affected by Alzheimer’s.
Speerschneider: I got involved because when Alicia described the organization, it seemed like a really fun way to help support a great organization. Not only did my involvement bring to light the personal connections I have had with the disease, it created opportunity for me to hear many other people’s stories and I am grateful for that.
Excelsior Life: Has participating impacted you in any way?
Stockholm: Emotionally, yes. Self-worth, yes. Giving me an outlet to take away that helpless feeling, yes. This is the most meaningful and dedicated volunteer organization I have participated in, but I had no idea it would be physically demanding. Of course, you participate at your level, to the best of your ability. And I caught the ball in the game – never thought that would happen!
Jacobs: For me, I have seen firsthand the impact of caregivers taking care of aging parents with a variety of medical conditions. Continued awareness and fundraising is needed for this disease. In the few years I have been involved, the event keeps growing and it is so important to increase awareness and raise money for Alzheimer’s.
Lourinia: Absolutely. Each practice, we have what has become known as a “mission moment.” This is when organizers, staff from the Alzheimer’s Association or fellow blondes and brunettes share a story of how this disease has affected their lives and the lives of loved ones. This is the reason that I am back for my second year, to help others fight!!!
Speerschneider: Of course. When I began playing, I played with a handful or people and statistics in mind, but after hearing so many personal stories, I have a lot more to play for. And it shows in practice and on game day. Our “mission moments” have a way of turning emotional stories into fire starters for a tough practice. And practices are tough. I have learned more about football than I ever anticipated.
Excelsior Life: Does this charity have any personal meaning to you?
Stockholm: Alzheimer’s has affected both sides of my family. Cases are happening at younger ages, causing families to scramble when working is no longer an option for both the one affected and the caretaker. The football and camaraderie makes what we do fun, the cause makes it meaningful and brings people back year after year.
Lourinia: I have friends, family and co-workers who are affected by this disease in different ways. Being able to be a part of a charity event that is doing so much with regards to the amount of money that is raised and the awareness it brings, is important not only to me but those I know who are affected. Being part of this event gives me an opportunity to do my part in assisting in finding a cure for this horrible disease.
Speerschneider: My great-grandmother had Alzheimer’s all 11 years that I knew her, but it seemed like a natural thing since she made it to 102 years young. Now I have a very different perspective as I see younger and younger people affected by the disease. When my mom worries that she is developing Alzheimer’s, I know she is fine for now (we all forget why we went into the kitchen sometimes), but I also know not to take it lightly, to encourage her to get it checked out and hope that research makes great strides so we are never confronted with the reality that over 5 million Americans face today.
Excelsior Life: How can people reading this story get involved?
Jacobs: Each of the players is required to raise money before game day. Donations are accepted online and you can support any player/team. Everyone is welcome to attend and cheer us on. The refs have said to me, “this doesn’t seem like girls playing football.”
Excelsior Life: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Stockholm: It’s the most fun you have had in ages!! My husband even had a blast going over the running tree, plays and routes with me, and watching me play on game day.
Jacobs: Due to the uniqueness of this charity event and the importance of raising awareness for Alzheimer’s disease, I thought it was important to show representation by various departments of the college and include myself in the story.