Superstorm Sandy and the fires that engulfed entire neighborhoods in the aftermath have taken a toll on the local rugby community in the New York area.
Championship high school team Xavier High School was especially hard hit, as over 80 kids found themselves without a home.
The rugby community and the Jesuit community have come together to try to help, spearheaded by John Connolly.
Connolly was first persuaded to play rugby by Ted Hynes at Manhattanville College. Hynes was one the first ever Xavier HS rugby team, coached by Tommy O’Hara. O’Hara was persuaded to play rugby while at the Merchant Marine Academy by Bill Rung. In 2007, Connolly, now living in Houston, helped start the Strake Jesuit rugby program in that city, and recruited Rung to coach the team.
That created a Houston-New York rugby connection which is mobilizing now. Rice University Rugby along with the rugby programs from Strake Jesuit, St. Thomas HS, and Dallas Jesuit are raising funds for rugby players from Xavier HS in NYC.
Late last week, Xavier Head Coach Joe Sweeney sent out an email outlining what his kids are facing.
“Right now we have over 80 kids displaced by the damage done by Hurricane Sandy – about two dozen of those students play rugby for us. They’re all living with family, friends or classmates right now, but their situations are generally temporary, often apart from the rest of their family, and far from ideal. The condition of their homes ranges from just waiting for power to be restored, to homes that need serious rehabilitation before families can move back in, to homes that have burned to the ground in three separate fires that took over 150 homes in the Rockaways. Probably more than half of our guys will be out of their homes for a year or more. That being said, they are a tough lot; they’re all back in school and getting on with life as normally as they can.”
T-shirts were sold at Saturday’s Rice v. TCU game (won by Rice over an injury-riddled Texas Christian team) to raise money for these kids.
Alumni from the 1985 National Championship Xavier team will participate in an event on Friday.
To contribute to the Xavier HS Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund, click here.
See also this 60 Minutes special. Some interviewed are former Xavier rugby players, and, says Sweeney, virtually every person interviewed has a connection to Xavier in one way or another.