Eric Armstrong is a fundraiser, committee member and coach for the Alzheimer's Association® RivALZ, where two teams of women — divided to reflect rivalries — compete in a flag football game to inspire action in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. Here, Eric shares why he got involved as a coach — and how RivALZ players continue to inspire him.
Seeing how personal the Alzheimer's fight is to so many, it’s the women of RivALZ that keep Eric — a coach for RivALZ Indianapolis — going. During a Mother’s Day fundraising event last season, it was more evident than ever. “Everyone has a mom, or a motherly figure in their life, a wife or good friend who is a mom,” he says. “As a coach and as a friend, I draw from the strength of all of these women. Almost two-thirds of Americans living with Alzheimer’s are women, and all the women in my life are why I got involved in this cause.”
While he considers himself a ‘behind-the-scenes’ kind of guy, giving back has always been a part of Eric’s life. “I was raised in a family where I was encouraged to find ways to be philanthropic, while being involved in something I was passionate about, and that mentality has always stayed with me.”
Although he has no family directly impacted by Alzheimer’s, Eric has seen what caregiving looks like close up. Both of his grandmothers lived late into their lives. When his maternal grandmother had a stroke, Eric’s mom and aunt became her caregivers. Later, his dad became caregiver to Eric’s paternal grandmother. “The demands of caregiving hit home,” he reflects. “I watched my mom, shortly after retiring from her teaching career, drop everything and relocate to Chicago, to provide care for my Grandma Juanita. My father commuted regularly from Oklahoma to St. Louis to help with my Grandmother Louise. Caregiving is a full-time job and I have the utmost respect for anyone in that role.”
Eric knows flag football has the power to bring people together. He first heard about RivALZ Indianapolis through his local social athletic club, Circle City Athletics. “After getting involved there, I met a lot of the women playing flag football in adult sports leagues.” When RivALZ Indianapolis was looking for two new coaches, Eric stepped up alongside Donnie White, a fellow community member, to take on the roles. “We both knew the women involved, so this was a great way to spend more time with these competitors we respect and care about.”
Family is a major motivation for both Eric and Donnie. “Donny has four daughters, and I have three sisters and seven nieces. It has been important for us both to get in front of this disease for future generations. I also do this for my mom, my aunts, and all the strong women in my family and mentorship circle. We champion that competitive spirit, and events like RivALZ are a way to bring that balance to your life.”
As a coach, Eric provides structure and guidance. “But RivALZ players and captains are the ones who know how to organize,” he says. Today, through Eric’s involvement in both his local community sports club and RivALZ, he has seen weddings, births of babies, and dozens upon dozens of monumental moments for players and coaches. “Today, there are children on the sidelines. You start seeing community and legacy build. And when people move to other cities, they seek out a new RivALZ team to join. It’s now a major part of their lives.”
Creating Connections — And Friendly Competition
Eric has seen how RivALZ allows like-minded people to join together and fundraise for this cause, safely and virtually. “All of these women give so much time and effort, both on and off the field. It’s easy for me to raise my own game and be motivated. Their mentality and passion bring out the best in everyone.”
For those with a competitive spirit, Eric sees the RivALZ flag football community as the perfect place to get involved. “There are limitless reasons, and the networking opportunities are a huge piece. So many people are looking for somewhere they can put forth their philanthropic energy and efforts, and RivALZ has been the place to do it, all while having fun and spending time with people we care about.”
So whether it’s at a fundraising event, a RivALZ game, or in creating Alzheimer’s awareness, Eric has been on board — even dyeing his hair purple once he hit $10,000 in donations to his RivALZ fundraising efforts. When it comes to making a difference, “You make time,” Eric says. “It’s important for me to support these women. We are all busy people with full lives who are dedicated to this cause, no matter what, for all the people we love.”
RivALZ events happen across the country and will resume this spring with safety protocols in place. Learn more about getting involved near you and check out Eric and his team, RivALZ Indianapolis. *
Update: As of August 2022, Eric has raised more than $70,000 for the Alzheimer's Association.