Blondes vs Brunettes flag-football game raises big $$ for Alzheimer’s in Santa Barbara

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It was a short pass and a long run. Scottee Reid caught the ball in motion from quarterback Sara Andrews, turned the corner and raced more than half the length of the field for the game’s only touchdown. The second-half score lifted those with the darker locks to victory, although both sides left the field feeling like winners.

That’s because the recent Blondes vs. Brunettes flag football game at the Santa Barbara Polo and Racquet Club raised $85,000 for the local Alzheimer’s Association. Hundreds of fans filled the stands and lined the sidelines, each one paying at least $20 for the chance to cheer on their favorite hair color.

Blondes vs. Brunettes - Alzheimer's Association

Breanna Czenczelewski, left, and Kiersten Hess, right, started the local Blondes vs. Brunettes event in 2014.

The players and coaches committed three months of practicing two times a week to prepare for the big game.

“I like watching football but I was always a soccer player and so not until I started playing this game did I really have a new appreciation for football and the complexity of football,” said Blondes’ team captain Kiersten Hess.

But stopping Alzheimer’s is a much bigger challenge than learning a blocking scheme or halting the opposing team on third down.

Team captains Breanna Czenczelewski and Hess are the Blondes vs. Brunettes instigators. Each had been active with the Alzheimer’s Association when the idea to establish the BvB event locally came about two years ago.

“This event truly spoke to me – it’s a fun way for an active, young professional like myself to meet like-minded individuals in the community, learn a new sport, and promote the Alzheimer’s Association,” Hess said. “As soon as I heard about BvB, I knew we had to bring this event to Santa Barbara.”

Several of the players know first hand the challenges the condition presents.

“Personally it hits home for me because my grandmother has Alzheimer’s disease, and since last year’s game, her sister was also diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease,” Czenczelewski said. “I definitely play for my family. You feel pretty helpless when you know someone with Alzheimer’s Disease so this is a way to combat that and giving back.”

Tanya White, a Chicago transplant to Santa Barbara whose mother was diagnosed four years ago, raised the most money of anyone for the second year in a row. She said she’s grateful for the tremendous support that the Alzheimer’s Association has provided.

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“It’s such a personal cause for me because my mom has Alzheimer’s. Five years ago she was diagnosed and it’s just been really tough. The Alzheimer’s Association really helped me through this. I don’t know what I would have done without them,” White explained.

She learned of the Blondes vs. Brunettes program through her softball league and jumped on the opportunity to give back to the organization. It’s a way to support her mother and other families dealing with the same hardship.

BLONDE TEAM ROSTER:


Kiersten Hess
Megan Wingo
Christianne Taylor
Heather Ayer
Andrea Shaparenko
Natalie Olivas
Annie Hayes
Sierra Jett
Ashleigh Davis
Chelsey Jones
Caroline Hayes
Heather Moine
Samantha Anderson
Brooks Jett
Claire O’Dell
Chrissy Deferville
Natalie Ford
Megan Foster
Gracie Boelsems
Anna Mwroka
Macie Berlin
Alysia Hendricks
Julie Scotland
Kerie Hawkins
Caitie Schooler
Ann Cowell
Julie Haustein
Tessa Binkley

BRUNETTE TEAM ROSTER:


Bre Czenczelewski
Laura Sweningson
Elise Geiger
Feli Rueff
Scottee Reid
Nicole Ivens
Maggie Perry
Harrison Colcord
Sara Box
Dianne Hearn
Rachel Thornton
Tatiana Woroch
Elise Poindexter
Amber McGaughey
Melissa Mason
Tanya White
Tina Torabian
Laura Clayton
Sarah Harris
Bryanna Ojeda
Ashley Antoon
Megan Buttner
Sara Andrews
Steph Braun
Lara Jacobs
Jodi Barrett

“Makes me feel close to her even though she can’t walk or talk or she doesn’t remember me at this time. She’s only 68 now. It’s tough,” White said.

White, a quarterback for the Brunettes, raised almost $4,000 in part by hosting a bake sale at work and receiving matching funds from her employer. She was recognized after the game for her effort. Each athlete was required to raise at least $500 for the cause.

The money goes to the local Alzheimer’s Association for support services in the Santa Barbara area.

The game itself ended in a 6-2 victory for the Brunetttes. Gracie Boelsems gave the Blondes a 2-0 lead at halftime with a safety in the second quarter. The first half was full of defensive highlights, including interceptions by the Brunettes’ Harrison Colcord and the Blondes’ Megan Wingo.

Reid’s touchdown came late in the third quarter.

Brunettes coach Matt Capritto said the winning play was a spacer route drawn up by Bishop Diego head coach Tom Crawford.  Also coaching the Brunettes were Gary Braun, Jordan Peña, Josh Clayton and Preston Maloney.

“We’ve been practicing so hard that we know our plays, our defense is really organized this year, all of our coaches have coached or played at the high school level. Whatever they tell us, we’ll do,” Czenczelewski said.

The Blondes were coached by James Rogers, Cody Vild, Mitch Ellenberger and Danny Cavaletto.

The game came down to the final series but the Blondes, who won last year’s inaugural game 22-19, couldn’t find the end zone. Most attributed this year’s low score to a change in the rules that allowed an immediate pass rush.

The halftime festivities mimicked the Super Bowl as both teams joined together to perform a choreographed dance routine and radio station KJEE provided music, give-aways and games for the spectators.

It all added up to almost twice as much money raised in 2015 as 2014.

“It’s priceless. The support that the community gives us, that the association gives us, to have over 60 players and coaches coming together for this one event is outstanding and it really takes everyone to pull it off,” Hess said.

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