Alisa Bartel was at a national conference on Alzheimer’s disease when she noticed some folks wearing T-shirts saying “Blondes vs. Brunettes.” Fortunately, it wasn’t a competition about who was more likely to get Alzheimer’s; it was a fundraiser that took off in Minnesota last week.

That’s when about 25 blondes faced off against 25 brunettes for a flag football game at Hamline University in St. Paul.

Each team of young players had been assembled over the summer, pledging to both fine-tune their flag football skills and raise money for the cause.

Add 550 charitable fans in the bleachers plus some generous vendors, and the first-time event raised a whopping $125,000.

“That’s the most money any city has raised in its debut year,” said Bartel of St. Paul, a running back for Team Blondes and co-coordinator of the event.

Denver recently raised $72,000 during Year 1, said Breanna Olson, event co-coordinator. New York City raised $110,000. The Twin Cities team initially set a $40,000 goal, she said, then quickly realized the bar was set too low.

“It’s a fun way to generate interest and funds from a new generation,” said Bartel.

That “new generation” is the under-40 crowd that the Alzheimer’s Association is targeting for support.

Alzheimer’s is often considered an “old person’s disease,” but those older folks are parents, grandparents, other relatives and friends, said Bartel, whose father recently died after struggling with the disease.

“An estimated one in 10 Americans over the age of 65 … have Alzheimer’s disease,” she said.

Blondes vs. Brunettes got started by a group of young folks in Washington, D.C., in 2005, said Olson. It’s now in more than 20 cities. Olson, who used to live in D.C., brought her affection for the game when she moved back to the Twin Cities last year.

Teaming with Bartel, she says they’re creating a fall tradition.

“We’re already thinking about our [next year’s] goals,” said Olson.

“Hopefully the games will be here for years to come.”


Jean Hopfensperger 612 673-4511