In two weeks, 152 young professional gals will take to the field at the Cotton Bowl for a flag-football game. More than 40 guys will coach with equal intensity from the sidelines under the Saturday night lights of the Fair Park stadium.
Each will have raised at least $1,250 for the right to play in what’s likely to be sweltering 90-plus evening heat.
They want to be part of the 10th annual BvB (formerly Blondes vs. Brunettes) Dallas Powder-Puff Football Game that’s expected to raise $600,000 for four local Alzheimer’s causes.
They play flag football for safety and insurance reasons, but there’s nothing powdery or puffy about it.
Erin Finegold, founder of BvB Dallas, expects to raise $600,000 playing a powder puff game at the Cotton Bowl on Aug. 12.. (Nathan Hunsinger/The Dallas Morning News)
“It’s extremely competitive — beyond all imagination,” says BvB Dallas founder Erin Finegold. “These girls are tough and competitive, very focused and they play to win, for sure. They also play to win by raising money.”
Finegold, 33, founded the organization in 2008 to honor her grandmother, who died from Alzheimer’s disease, and her grandfather, who cared for his beloved wife throughout the decade-long battle.
Today, there are more than 35 similar organizations around the country, but Dallas is by far the brightest shining star in number of participants and dollars raised.
If the goal of $600,000 is met, the 10-year tally will be $3.4 million.
This year’s BvB beneficiaries are Baylor AT&T Memory Center, the Center for BrainHealth, the Center for Vital Longevity and UT Southwestern Medical Center, awarded grants for research, prevention and care here.
No shades of gray
Team Blonde and Team Brunette a.k.a. Bru’ Crew have been training once a week since early June.
The week prior to the game, teams get to add a second practice, but just that one, she says. “We have to limit it because they’d go crazy and practice every day.”
The contestants and coaches are a motley crew — Alzheimer’s researchers, teachers, accountants, marketers and lawyers.
“The quarterback for the brunettes is a semi-pro flag-football player — one of the top in the state. So she is extremely talented,” says Finegold. “She’s a ringer, 100 percent.”
Hair tint isn’t strictly enforced.
“We ask that girls be the hair color of their team on photo day and game day, but some do not follow instructions,” says brown-haired Feingold, whose day job is director of corporate communications and events for the Dallas Mavericks. “It’s all for a good cause, so we can’t get too upset if they aren’t super blonde or dark brunette. Just as long as they raise $1,250 by game day, they can be on the field.”
Redheads are free agents.
A babe in the woods
Finegold was a 22-year-old Slingshot agency newbie when she heard about a powder-puff game played in Washington, D.C. that benefited the Alzheimer’s Association.
She decided to give it a shot here, even though she’d never put on any kind of event and the only time she’d been on a football field was as a cheerleader for the Highland Park Fighting Scots.
She and a friend mapped out the basics — sponsorship levels, summer practice schedules, and logos — while sitting on her parents’ couch at the family gathering following her grandmother’s funeral in May 2008.
“I’m thinking, ‘This isn’t going to be huge, but it’s going to be fun,’ ” Finegold recalls.
When she told the folks at the Alzheimer’s Association of Greater Dallas that she thought she could raise $20,000 for them, they didn’t bother to hide their skepticism.
“It was like I was 12 years old with them patting me on my head: ‘Oh, sweet girl, you’re so precious. That’s not ever going to happen,’ ” she recalls.
After the 2013 game, Blondes vs. Brunettes Dallas decided to give to other local causes where the 501(c)(3) would have greater say in how its funds were put to specific use. That meant changing its name because the Alzheimer’s Association holds the trademark to Blondes vs. Brunettes nationwide.
Founder and President Erin Finegold with her sister Toby Finegold and her grandfather Joe Joe who was the inspiration for the organization, at the Sixth Annual Blondes vs. Brunettes Powder-Puff football game at Bishop Lynch High School in Dallas, TX on August 17, 2013. (Alexandra Olivia/ Special Contributor)
Eight or nine twenty-somethings showed up for the first planning meeting at The Palm. They told friends, who told friends, eventually rounding up 75 players and coaches for a game held at Griggs Park in Uptown before it was updated.
There were several key takeaways from that first game nine years ago.
For starters — and enders — you don’t ply players and coaches with brunch and mimosas and then take to the field at 2 p.m. on the first day of August.
“But hey, what do I know?” Finegold laughs. “We’re having to move bleachers from one part of the park to another in the heat. So we’re dripping in sweat before the game ever starts.”
She played quarterback for the Brunettes, threw a quick interception and ended her powder-puff playing career in a matter of minutes.
Today, she wears many hats — though no official ones — handling fundraising, sponsorship and branding. She’s the only person who knows how to set up and run the Jumbotron at the Cotton Bowl, where the game has been played since 2014.
An easy sell in Texas
“We raised $67,500 that first season,” Finegold says. “And to this day, I have no clue how we did it.”
But Finegold can tell you how the event gained and maintains momentum.
A friend hooked up Finegold and the game with The Ticket, which promotes the event through pro-bono radio commercials and online mentions. The station’s on-air talent calls the game. Ty Walker does the play-by-play. The Sirois brothers, Mike and Cash of "Cirque du Sirois" fame, are the comedic color commentators.
Jeff Catlin, program director of The Ticket, saw the natural alignment from the get-go.
"These girls playing in the game have fathers, boyfriends or husbands who listen to The Ticket," says Catlin. "And when you’re talking about guys between the ages of 25 and 54, Alzheimer’s is a disease that affects someone in his family or circle of friends.
"So it’s a pretty obvious and clear connection that’s mutually beneficial. We’ll continue to support the event as long as they will have us."
Ebby Halliday — both the late grand Realtor and her company — became a steadfast sponsor in season three. “I don’t think we’d be here today without Ebby,” Finegold says.
Bud Light came on board about the same time and has provided the brew for the past seven years. “That’s our bread and butter because people want to come, drink beer and watch football. It’s an easy sell in Texas.”
Every year has set a record with $564,000 raised last year.
Finegold is confident about meeting — possibly surpassing — the $600,000 goal, even though less than half of that is officially on the books. There’s always a last-minute rush to the goal line as players hustle to meet their $1,250 needed to get onto the field and others vie to be the fundraising MVP. Then there’s tickets at the gate and beer sales at the game.
“I used to have heart palpitations where I’d wake up in the summer thinking, ‘We’re not going to hit it,’ ” she says. “It’s never a sure thing. But we have an amazing group of fundraisers, and we’re about 50-grand ahead of where we were this time last year. So I’m fairly comfortable.”
Co-founder Greer Fulton May has raised the most money thus far — $64,268 for the first nine games. "But this season, we have some people who’ve raised 15-, or 20-grand already, which is crazy," says Finegold.
After the 2013 game, Blondes vs. Brunettes Dallas decided to give proceeds to other local causes where the 501(c)(3) would have greater say in how its funds were put to specific use. That meant changing its name, because the Alzheimer’s Association holds the trademark to Blondes vs. Brunettes nationwide.
Fighting Alzheimer’s disease is the cause celeb for many millennials who worry about having to care for parents and grandparents and those really, really frightening statistics bearing down on them.
Finegold can tick off stats from the top of her head: Five million Americans, including 360,000 Texans, are fighting Alzheimer’s.
“By the time I turn 65, more than 16 million people will have Alzheimer’s disease,” she says. “What’s heartbreaking is the number of our friends’ parents who have early-onset Alzheimer’s. They’re being diagnosed before age 60 — which is scary for all of us.”
It seriously bugs her that far more money is spent on breast implants, cosmetic surgery or Viagra than on this mounting disease.
Finegold would love nothing better than to kill the powder-puff event because a cure has been found.
In the meantime, she wants to find her replacement to Charlotte Jones-Anderson the effort.
“This is a call to action,” says Finegold, who figures she’s aging out. “I’m hoping that one of these young Type-A go-getters is going to take it and run with it.”
What: BvB Dallas Powder-Puff Football Game
When: 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 12
Where: The Cotton Bowl
Admission: $25 donation
Benefits: Baylor AT&T Memory Center, Center for BrainHealth, Center for Vital Longevity and UT Southwestern Medical Center.
Title: founder, Big D Power Puff Tackling Alzheimer’s Inc., d.b.a BvB Dallas
Day job: corporate communications director, Dallas Mavericks.
Education: Bachelor of communications, University of Denver, 2006
Personal: Married to Justin White for 18 months. They have a “fur baby” Rhodesian Ridgeback who rules the house.
SOURCES: Erin Finegold and BvB Dallas