Help Get The NFL To “Go Purple” In September
By Nicole Ivey
It came in glimpses at first… a forgotten birthday, a momentary confusion of names and faces. Then came the swapping of nights for days followed by anxiety, wandering, and slipping through time. Eventually “bad days” became more frequent than “good days” and my husband’s paternal grandparents could no longer maintain their self-sufficient lifestyle. More than losing their home and their independence, they lost themselves piece-by-piece as our family looked on, aching to stop the process. Leigh Ivey, Sr. passed away in April of 2012 battling the effects of Alzheimer’s; after sixty years of marriage, Dorothy has been left to carry on without him, still suffering from Alzheimer’s. The truth is, all who love her suffer. It is absolutely heartbreaking to lose a loved one piece-by-piece right before your very eyes.
In September of 2012, I participated in The Walk to End Alzheimer’s (team name: “Forget You, Alzheimer’s”—clever, right?). With the help of an incredible group of friends and family, I raised $535 in under six weeks! My husband and I were at the front of the walk, which wound through Portsmouth, New Hampshire. At the bottom of a hill, I looked up to glimpse a sea of purple and the sun shining brightly. In that instant, I knew there was more I could do. Months later, after seeing the documentary entitled “Blood Equity” about football players suffering long-term effects from the incredible hits they take during their short time playing football. Something clicked. The connection between football and Alzheimer’s suddenly seemed so obvious and so beautiful— 1. Our family, Grammy and Grampy included, loves football and spends every Sunday from late summer to early winter watching football. How wonderful it would be to see the NFL raise awareness and money for Alzheimer’s! 2. A study from Reuter’s found that death rates from Alzheimer’s and Lou Gehrig’s Disease were four times higher in former NFL players than those in the general United States population.
My mission became clear: get the NFL to “Go Purple” in the month of September—Alzheimer’s Awareness Month—to raise awareness and money in the fight against Alzheimer’s Disease. This act of support is beneficial in many ways: 1. It will help raise awareness about a disease that is often left out of the national conversation with regard to healthcare. 2. Raised awareness means increased efforts in fundraising and research. 3. Current players can rest assured knowing that their employers care not only about their performance on the field for the short time they play but also about their health and wellbeing long after they’ve retired from the game. 4. Former players and their families may no longer feel discarded by the NFL as they face issues of memory loss and confusion. It is the social and moral responsibility of the NFL to get active in the fight to end Alzheimer’s.
Since the year 2000, deaths from Alzheimer’s have risen 68% while deaths from other major diseases have decreased; this is no coincidence! Last year, the National Institute of Health spent 5.8 billion dollars on cancer and 4.3 billion dollars on heart disease. Comparatively, the NIH spent just under 500 million dollars on Alzheimer’s. As fellow Alzheimer’s activist, John Sandblom, has indicated: “In 2011 there were 50,000 new cases of HIV/AIDS and that disease received 2.6 Billion in research funding from the NIH and there were 500,000 new cases of Alzheimer’s (10 times as many) […] Now no one begrudges the research on HIV/AIDS, quite the contrary, it has proven that if you pour a lot into research you can fairly quickly change what was once a rather quick death sentence into meaningful treatments that allow a long life.” In order to get serious about making progress in the fight against Alzheimer’s we need awareness, education, and more funding! The time to act is now!
I began the initiative to turn the NFL purple in September by contacting teams and sponsors. Many thought I had a great idea. None committed to action. I created a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/NFLgoPURPLEinSEPTEMBER) and I started a petition on change.org (https://www.change.org/petitions/national-football-league-go-purple-in-the-month-of-september-for-alzheimer-s-awareness) in hopes of garnering support by the masses. Since starting the petition in March 2013, I have seen it grow, stall, then grow further. I am anxious to see numbers increase, and I’m confident that they will as I continue to make connections and gain supporters. I understand that I have a lot of work to do in order to get the attention of the NFL, and I am working diligently to spread the message of my mission. As this movement has gained traction, I’ve been thrilled with the outreach from the Alzheimer’s community. Seeing activists working collaboratively has shown me, once again, the beauty of humanity… like a flower growing through cracks in the pavement; where tragedy lies, beauty grows. It’s simply amazing.
I fight for Leigh Ivey, Sr. and Dorothy Ivey. I fight for the NFL players who bring so much joy to the life of my family. Please, fight with me.