The Illinois State University men’s rugby club began in 1971, followed by the founding of the women’s club in 1976. Over 45 years later, club rugby has become one of the longest running organizations at Illinois State University, with hundreds of alumni who support the club today. With the 50th anniversary of the men’s rugby club just a few years away, alumni have embarked on a campaign to raise $50,000 by the 50th anniversary reunion in April 2021.
Rugby club alumni have always been supportive, gathering every five years since 1991 to celebrate rugby anniversary milestones. While the alumni gather to reminisce on the challenging matches, long bus rides to tournaments, and the lasting friendships formed, supporting the current team has always been a priority. Thus, with each celebration came financial support.
Paul Peterson ’01 formed lifelong friendships throughout his time in club rugby. He supports the club today as an alumnus because “many of us worked through college in addition to being full-time students, so funding rugby was a burden, but a worthwhile one. If we can remove a financial obstacle or two by contributing funds to the team, then we should do that.”
Shortly after the 45th celebration occurred, Ray Karenas ’78 initiated the idea of creating a more sustainable giving system. The support alumni contributed every five years at the reunions was amazing, but Karenas wanted to ensure that the clubs had funds to depend on each year. Karenas and other alumni have rallied together to launch the $50,000 for 50 years campaign, encouraging alumni to set up recurring gifts to support the clubs.
Current players value the fundraising efforts from the club rugby alumni. “It means a lot that they still show interest and support after all these years,” said Ryley Georgitsis, a junior member of the men’s rugby club. “Their support is greatly appreciated!” The Rugby Club plans to use the funds to help offset the costs of equipment, traveling to tournaments, and unplanned costs associated with any postseason success.
Only two months into their campaign, alumni across generations are either signing up for their recurring gift or making a yearly commitment to support the club. However, the campaign is just beginning. With just under four years until the 50th reunion, this group of alumni is determined to continue their efforts until they reach their goal, ensuring that the players of today have the same life-changing experience they all had. If 100 alumni establish a recurring gift of $15 per month, they will reach their goal before their 50th anniversary.
You can support the rugby club or any sport club team by making a gift to the Campus Recreation Sports Club Fund, indicating which club you wish to support in the gift notes box. For more information on sport clubs fundraising or the rugby campaign, contact Anna Knepler, assistant director of annual giving and alumni engagement.