Jan 01 2020

Changing Lives Through Rugby

England ruby star Kyle Sinckler was hailed throughout the country for his performance against Australia in the recent World Cup quarter-final. But, he already was a hero at his old grade school, Graveney School in Tooting. He changed lives there after setting up a rugby team when he was just 13 years old.

Kyle had assured a teacher that he would pick the players and help train the team. The hodgepodge group of students gradually grew, year after year, into a dominant team. All of the success, including an appearance eight years later in league finals, came from the foundation created by Kyle.

Following graduation, Kyle continued to build his personal foundation. He earned a scholarship to Epsom College. Then, he was spotted by the Harlequins Rugby Union, which enjoys a 150-year lineage in the sport. Through his personal success and the school rugby program that he created 13 years ago, the prop forward has inspired scores of children to play the game.

Many of the players who followed in Kyle’s footsteps are the first in their families to attend college. Rugby has led them to success through quality education. According to a former grade school teacher, Kyle “has changed lives.”

At the quarter-final game with Australia, Kyle’s outstanding performance was capped with an emotional tribute to his mother, Donna, who works at a police call center. She raised him and she ferried him to training when he was a schoolboy.

The current demographics of rugby indicates that many potential players are similar to Kyle –mixed race, from single parent households and attending grade schools without rugby teams. Today, at Graveney School in Tooting and at many other schools, Kyle’s original determination, along with his current fame, support the rallying cry that is helping many young school boys build solid lifelong foundations.

Oct 16 2019

Rugby Player Honored For Off-Field Contributions

Kraig Puccia was completing his junior year at Fordham University earlier this year when he was honored with the fifth annual Penn Mutual Life of Significance award. Presented at the conclusion of the Penn Mutual Collegiate Rugby Championship, the award included a $5,000 contribution to a charity of Kraig’s choice—the Tundra Women’s Coalition of Alaska that helps protect women and their children from domestic violence related to drug and alcohol abuse.

Kraig is an Italian studies/history double major from Queens. As a member of the Fordham Men’s Rugby Club since he entered the school, Kraig impressed the award judges both as a scholar-athlete and for his dedication to multiple off-the-field causes.

Kraig had traveled to Bethel, Alaska, with other Fordham students to work with the Tundra Women’s Coalition. He also had volunteered with the Queens District Attorney’s domestic violence bureau. This past summer, Kraig volunteered at the Urban Justice Center’s Veterans Advocacy Project, providing pro-bono work for veterans throughout New York City. Kraig has been involved in service projects since his first year at Xavier High School in Manhattan.

“The work has just felt like the right thing to do,” said Kraig, “but to get recognized for it was a nice chance to be retrospective. It was a nice chance to sit down and recognize what I’ve done, and not necessarily celebrate it, but to be grateful for the opportunities I’ve had.”

The award was presented to Kraig by Penn Mutual CEO Eileen McDonnell and Fordham alum Joe Jordan. In fact, Joe, a football scholar-athlete member of the Fordham Ram’s Hall of Fame, created this rugby collegiate award to highlight the lessons of his book, Living a Life of Significance, that emphasizes a purpose-driven life in the service of others.

Following graduation, Joe found success in the insurance industry. He was a senior vice president at Met Life and played rugby recreationally for 30 years. He convinced Penn Mutual’s CEO to support the rugby tournament as a way for the company to connect with young people and to show them that a career in the financial services sector can be compatible with living a purpose-filled life.

Kraig, Joe, Eileen and Penn Mutual! Great job all around.