It all started on May 13. I am the co-chair with my brother Jeffrey for this year’s Fairfield County Walk to End Alzheimer’s. We had a call late that afternoon and getting teams to sign up in the middle of the pandemic was at the top of the agenda.
Wanting to both make a good impression and set an example, I reached out to a couple of athletes I knew asking if their teams would sign up. The Staples football team, which participated last year, was first. Then came the Staples baseball team, Wilton girls soccer team, Ridgefield boys and girls basketball teams and Fairfield Warde boys and girls soccer teams.
By the time of the call 14 teams had registered. After a week the number had reached 58. And this morning the Danbury field hockey team became the 70th to register for the walk, which will take place on Oct. 11. Because of the pandemic the event will now be remote: teams can choose their own routes and stay close to home.
I covered my first FCIAC game in 1982: the state field hockey championship between Darien and Greenwich (I had never seen a field hockey game before). Except for an 18-month span in the late ’90s when I went to ESPN and then worked for the company that ran the NCAA’s website, my professional career has been writing about the FCIAC.
I’ve seen the best of the conference for decades, but nothing has resonated more than what has happened over the past two months. If this seems self-serving, part of my charge as the walk co-chair is to try and get as many teams and raise the most amount of money possible. It is a personal cause: my mother has suffered from the disease for 10 years. I wanted to do more than just make an annual contribution.
My initial vision was to have 30-40 teams from the FCIAC walk as one at Calf Pasture Beach, the annual site for the event.
What has happened has been completely organic: thus far I have done little recruiting, which I plan to do about a month before the walk. I have yet to contact some of the coaches I know best.
Dave Schulz, the FCIAC commissioner, has been extremely supportive. He met with Tori Vigorito, the Development Manager at Alzheimer’s Association, Connecticut Chapter. She was allowed to set up tables at the league’s boys and girls basketball playoffs. Several lacrosse coaches had agreed to hold special fundraisers at games last spring.
Assuming there are fall sports, Vigorito and I will talk to the FCIAC coaches at their preseason meeting. I assumed the majority of teams would sign up in September.
Never did I think we would have 70 in the middle of the summer. Shouting out each team on my Instagram and Facebook accounts after they register demonstrates the reach of social media. Many of the kids that signed up their teams have expressed appreciation at the opportunity to participate, when obviously it is the other way around.
Starting to promote the walk in May had an unexpected advantage. The weather this spring was bad and the prospect of an outdoor activity was something for athletes to look forward to. And FCIAC schools and teams have demonstrated their support for charitable causes in numerous ways over the years. This is a ready-made event for teams, and now they can stay close to home to participate.
Right now the FCIAC accounts for half of the 139 teams that have signed up. This is a challenging time for fundraising, but the gap can be made up by having more teams walking.
I think getting 100 teams to take part is now a reasonable goal. And we want to get the parents, friends and all readers involved. I’m overwhelmed but not surprised by the league’s communal support.
The FCIAC is going to raise a lot of money. More than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s and that number is expected to grow to as many as 16 million by 2050. It is an insidious disease that affects the families of those afflicted. I visit my mother weekly. I have lost her even though she is physically here.
I never really got the chance to say thank you to my mother. Thank you for so many things.
At least I get that opportunity to the members of the league I have made a career covering, a job that has given me very few days I haven’t enjoyed.
So to you FCIAC teams, let me express those two words for your benevolence.