The Atlanta Bucks are a unique sports team in a city that’s saturated with sports: not only do they tear it up on the rugby field against teams like the cleverly-named Macon Love as part of the International Gay Rugby Association and Board, but they are also deeply committed to helping strengthen their community and fighting hard on behalf of marginalized groups like homeless LGBT youth.
That’s the exact group the Bucks are going to help during their upcoming Purple Dress Run on April 27. This fun, irreverent event involves booze, food, games, people wearing purple dresses and the spirit of competition. Runners dress in their best purple clothing—it’s one of the Bucks’ team colors, after all—and dash from one stop on the race’s itinerary to the next. They’ll get two free drinks at each stop and other diversions are promised too.
The race kicks off at Mixx Atlanta (1492 Piedmont Ave.) at 2 p.m., moves on to Blake’s on the Park (227 10th St.) and finishes with a cookout and celebration at Atlanta Eagle (306 Ponce de Leon Ave.). Registration on the day of the run will open at 12:30 p.m. You can purchase a participant ticket at purpledressrun2013.eventbrite.com—note that there’s also a group discount for groups of seven or more.
This is the seventh annual Purple Dress Run and proceeds will benefit Lost-n-Found Youth (lost-n-found.org), which helps get LGBT youth out of homelessness and into permanent housing situations. They are the only group that actively takes Atlanta’s LGBT youth off the streets. The goal this year is $7,000, according to team treasurer Jason Cecil.
Another goal of this event is to fundraise and help the Bucks embark on a long trip to Sydney, Australia for the Bingham Cup championship in August 2014. This event, hosted every other year, will be hosted by local IGRAB team the Sydney Convicts.
The announcement that Sydney won the bid for hosting Bingham Cup 2014 was among the best things to happen in Australian sports in 2012, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard even lent her support to the bid.
The fields and host hotel for Bingham Cup 2014 are also well-placed near Sydney’s famous Bondi Beach and Oxford Street, which is kind of like the down under version of Atlanta’s Midtown gayborhood.
The IGRAB’s championship was named for Mark Bingham, who was a gay rugby player himself, but died on United Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001. (He was reportedly part of the group of passengers that fought back against the hijackers.) Before Bingham’s death, he had been helping to create more gay-inclusive rugby clubs all over the world. The IGRAB was formed in 2002.
Manchester, England hosted the most recent Bingham Cup tourney in 2012. In fact, the Bucks’ 2012 Purple Dress Run had a fundraising component to help the Bucks jump the pond and attend that tournament. The Bucks have gone to the Cup since at least 2006, when New York City hosted, and was the only North American team to win a division title at Dublin 2008.
To say that it will cost a little dough for the Bucks to get to Australia is an understatement.
“It’s a daunting trip from a cost perspective. It will cost about $5,000 per person to go. To bring a full team, we’d need to have 20 players and at least five auxiliary. Our team is made of people who work in various fields and some are in school. For all of us, $5000 is a big deal,” Cecil explained. “We fundraise to make the cost more manageable.”
For those who aren’t big runners but still want to help the Bucks hit their Purple Dress Run goals, donations are accepted via firstgiving.com/atlantabucks.
The team is also planning to play in the upcoming Music City Cup in Nashville as their season comes to a close, though Cecil said they may field a smaller team for summer play. A fan appreciation cookout is on the horizon, too.
The Bucks also help spread the message of acceptance, inclusiveness and ending bullying through the involvement of Ben Cohen. Cohen, a retired rugby player from Britain, is straight but doesn’t mind at all that he has a large following of gay men who think he’s a good-looking guy—because he most certainly is!
When he retired from the game, he decided to focus his post-retirement life on the Ben Cohen StandUp Foundation (standupfoundation.com). Based right here in Atlanta, his foundation is dedicated to eradicating bullying. This issue has touched his family personally: his father was beaten to death while trying to stop a bar fight.
Since Cohen’s foundation is based here, he also does a lot of outreach work with the Bucks, including postgame “Third Half with Ben Cohen” events and fundraisers, plus a 2011 acceptance tour that went around the country and kicked off in Atlanta.
A similar foundation, the You Can Play Project, recently entered into a partnership with the National Hockey League that strengthens the league’s commitment to LGBT inclusiveness. This helps show that the work these groups do is helping. The tides are changing and the welcoming environment of teams like the Atlanta Bucks is spreading.
So, get shopping for that perfect purple ensemble and gear up for a race that does so much good for so many people. Go Bucks!