Durham resident Devon Newton started playing football when he was four years old. The sport stayed with him through high school; he even coached his college team (although he jokingly admits you wouldn’t be impressed with this if you knew where he went to college). Devon has a passion for the game that is honest and obvious.
After law school, Devon moved to Durham to pursue his career and help the local community. Through his connections in football club leagues as he passed the bar and waited to be sworn in, he was invited to fill an assistant coach role at the 2017 RivALZ Raleigh- Blondes vs. Brunettes (RivALZ Raleigh), a volunteer- driven event that engages young professionals in friendly but fierce flag football game. From then on, he says “I got hooked! I looked forward to going to practices to both help the cause and see people start to understand the sport and game.”
Last season, Devon stepped up into the head coach role for the Brunettes team and couldn’t be happier with the responsibility. This multi-faceted role is clearly made for him. “The biggest thing I want to do is to make sure everyone enjoys the game, at the end of the day,” says Devon. At the same time, he is definitely passionate about spreading the mission of the Alzheimer’s Association. “There are so many people who are impacted that don’t know what Alzheimer’s disease is or know what the [Alzheimer’s] Association is. We are raising awareness for a disease that has no cure.”
Devon individually raises money towards his team’s goal by hosting a separate flag football game “Ballin’ for Alz”. The first year the game was men only. The second year was open to women as well. This year was supposed to be an all-year event, incorporating dodgeball, volleyball and other season-appropriate sports. He hopes to pick back up where he left off when it is safe to do.
Devon shares that RivALZ Raleigh is special because the event has found a way to make this cause “less grey”. That inspiration and hope connects young people in a new and exciting way. “It does more than just raise money,” explains Devon. “I’ve coached college football games where there are fewer people in the stands. It just shows how broad and how much of an impact this organization has on people. It’s about creating an experience for an entire year.”
Devon’s competitive spirit comes out as he discusses his plans for this RivAlz Raleigh season. “At the end of the day you want to be the one to hoist the trophy…When I find out we find out how much we actually raised, it’s a moment of satisfaction.”
This year, Devon coaches in honor of two of his friends, both battling Alzheimer’s disease in their families. He recognizes that his connection to this game is what gave his friends the courage to discuss this fight with him, and is grateful for this deeper connection. Devon looks forward to his favorite moment of game day — “right before kickoff. The girls have taken the field, everyone is ready and waiting to put together everything we have worked so hard for.”
The Alzheimer’s Association RivALZ is a volunteer- driven event that engages young professionals in friendly but fierce flag football games around the country. The event brings together two teams of young professional women (and men) that are organized around age-old rivalries– East vs. West, Blondes vs. Brunettes, City vs. Suburbs- to tackle Alzheimer’s disease, the nation’s sixth-leading cause of death. The two teams aim to increase awareness of Alzheimer’s disease among a new generation. Since the inaugural game in Washington, D.C., RivALZ has grown to more than 50 cities, raising more than $9 million and bringing thousands of new supporters to the cause. RivAlz Blondes vs. Brunettes – Raleigh ranked No. 3 out of 42 RivALZ games played nationwide in 2019. This year’s Blondes vs. Brunettes Raleigh goal is to raise $183,000 for Alzheimer’s research, care and support.
Join a team
There is still a chance for new players to join in the fun this season! Recruitment for players and coaches is open until July 17. Players are required to participate in practices leading up to game day. Veteran players must meet a $750 fundraising minimum. New recruits and rookies must meet a $500 fundraising minimum. Funds raised will benefit the care, support, and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association.
Join us on Gameday
This year’s game and fundraiser will take place on October 3rd from (10 a.m. to Noon) at NCSU Method Road Complex, located at 3081 Ligon Street in Raleigh. Game day tickets are $20 a person and can be purchased through an online donation in honor of a favorite player.