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Blondes vs. Brunettes event hits home in the Southtowns

Nicolle Arcara, Kate Barbati, Deanna Bednarz, Kat McDonald, Kim Siefert, Crystal Smith, Eva Tanis, Stacy Young and Katie Ziolkowski, who all live, work or graduated from Hamburg or Frontier, attended the event.

HAMBURG — Although their individual reasons may vary for participating in the volunteer-driven Blondes vs. Brunettes gridiron event, women from the Western New York area – a large number of whom are from the Southtowns – share common bonds of camaraderie, while raising awareness and funding for the Western New York Alzheimer’s Association.

The May 17 draft party for BvB Buffalo took place at Armor Inn Tap Room, with 1/3 of all profits going to the WNY Alzheimer's Association.

The Armor Inn also donated food for the event, which BvB Buffalo co-chair and Lake Shore High School graduate Deanna Bednarz said is becoming more of a Southtowns-localized occurrence.

BvB is seeking corporate sponsors, with a goal of raising $94,500, according to Bednarz, a marketing executive who resides in Blasdell. Donation and other information can be found at www.bvbbuffalo.com, as well as on the BVB Facebook page.

The annual BvB football game will take place at 2 p.m. September 20 at Sweet Home High School. Fundraising events that will lead up to the game include a golf tournament in July and a kick-off party/bachelorette auction in August.

BvB Buffalo is one of dozens of national chapters, including Washington D.C., Dallas, Texas and New York City.

Buffalo's chapter is stated as being comparable in numbers to NYC, with more than 100 registrants for the 2013 game. BvB, founded nationally in 2005, raises awareness and funds for the Alzheimer's Association to support research, awareness and education about that disease. Bednarz is in her second year co-chairing that event, along with Jenn Chodara.

"[The game] can be fierce, but it turns into a fun competition," Bednarz, a wide receiver who is in her fourth BvB overall, said of the contest. "It's about the camaraderie. It's about coming together for a cause. Over the years be have built a sisterhood, a sisterhood we are all very proud of. It's infectious to be a part of this group of strong, independent women fighting towards an end to Alzheimer's Disease."

Other BvB members who have connections to the Southtowns include Nicolle Arcara and Katie Ziolkowski, who each work in Hamburg; Kate Barbati, a Hamburg High School graduate; Kat McDonald, who's a resident of Lakeview and a Frontier High School graduate; Kim Siefert, a resident of Hamburg; Crystal Smith and Stacy Young, each Frontier High graduates; and Eva Tanis, Blasdell resident, Frontier graduate and blonde’s team co-captain.

The women, of whom most are in their 20s and 30s, were in high spirits at the draft party.

"[BvB] is in honor of friends, family, anyone [who has a history of being touched by Alzheimer's]," said Tanis, who also serves as the graphic designer for the organization. This is Tanis' third year in BvB, playing quarterback and safety.

McDonald, a 2002 Frontier graduate and third-year BvB cornerback/linebacker, has a family history affected by dementia, adding that her mother has served as a caretaker for her ailing father. Barbati, a multi-sport star who graduated Hamburg High School in 1997, stated that her family has battled Alzheimer's disease. A Boston resident, Barbati currently teaches physical education locally and added that she played recreational football prior to her joining BvB.

Young, a 1999 graduate of Frontier, is in her first year in the BvB. She's had first-hand view of the detrimental effects of Alzheimer's, serving as a Crisis Intervention Officer in Las Vegas, Nev. upon graduating from Medaille College with a criminal justice degree.

"It breaks down families," Young said of the disease. Currently working in the Erie County Sheriff's Office, Young plays slot receiver and defensive back for the BvB, in her first year.

Smith, a 2000 graduate of Frontier, is in her second stint with the BvB, while Siefert, an Orchard Park graduate, is in her first year.

Ziolkowski and Arcara, each 25, are gearing up for the annual BvB game, Ziolkowski in her fifth year, and Arcara, her first. Ziolkowski works at Elderwood Health Care, while Arcara works at Diversified Hearing Services.

While Bednarz is looking forward to dishing out and receiving some hard hits during the game, it's the off-the-field events that are paramount for the BvB's success. Her marketing background is used extensively to promote the event to businesses and individuals. Fundraising for this year's event is off to a good start, but the aforementioned goals remain.

Last year's fundraising goal of $90,000 was met, with overall participation efforts and expectations growing annually since BvB's inception, nearly a decade ago.

The Blondes vs. Brunettes annual contest is stated as helping to "solve the age-old debate" between the two differing hair colors. Although the game itself is sure to bring some gridiron highlights, it's the efforts and friendships of those involved that really stand out.

Leilani Pelletier is the executive director of the Alzheimer's Association of WNY.


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