The newest Raptor is certainly something special.
Since its founding a decade ago, the Glendale Raptors Rugby Club has been an important and committed presence in its community, encouraging engagement from fans and players of all ages and walks of life. One of the most critical aspects of that engagement involves active participation in the lives of community youth. Whether it’s the extensive programming of the Glendale Raptors Rugby Academy, or monthly player visits to Children’s Hospital, the Raptors are invested in the future of Colorado’s young people. This week, that investment was taken a step further, as the Raptors welcomed twelve-year-old Koby Gruenwald to join their ranks as an honorary club member.
In early December, Raptors Youth Programs Manager Jenna Anderson was contacted by the non-profit Friends of Jaclyn about making Koby a team member. Founded in 2005, Friends of Jaclyn works to improve the lives of children battling pediatric brain tumors by connecting them with athletic organizations. The group has helped nearly 700 families impacted by brain tumors and other childhood cancers find support through sports teams. The Raptors were thrilled to become the latest addition. “As soon as I was contacted, I knew this was something that we’d do. We’re just that kind of club,” said Anderson.
At a special ceremony on Tuesday evening, members of the Raptors teams, along with friends and family, welcomed Koby to the club, presenting him with a special signing certificate and autographed ball. Diagnosed last March, Koby’s adoption by the Raptors comes shortly after surgical removal of a brain tumor. At the ceremony, his mother Melanie Gruenwald remarked that Koby’s recovery has been “nothing short of miraculous.” A Denver resident and college rugby fan, Gruenwald said that Koby’s adoption by the Raptors felt like “coming home to a rugby community in Colorado. Things like this really just make our lives so much better.”
As an honorary Raptor, Koby will be invited to participate in practices, events, and games, and will also receive regular correspondence from other team members. Youth Director Anderson makes the point that the newest Raptor was not signed to a specific team, however: “He’s not just on one team – he’s signed to the entire club. We have the opportunity to give back, and it’s an honor to meet people like Koby. We’re truly thankful to have this opportunity.”
The Glendale Raptors have a long history of community involvement. After this week’s adoption, the club’s commitment to the people of Glendale, and of the entire Front Range, is further strengthened. As an honorary Raptor, Koby will experience the true camaraderie of rugby. Or as Anderson puts it: “we’re here to provide support, friendship, and love to a little boy who has been through a lot. This is something special.” The newest Raptor is certainly something special, and with his new teammates is, and will continue to be, rugby strong.
Photos by Justin Purdy