Rugby tradition comes to an end, but the cause it supports to continue

Mike DeNardo
November 23, 2018 - 4:05 pm

Mike DeNardo | KYW Newsradio

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — This was the tenth and final year for a memorial rugby tournament in Fairmount Park, but the cause it supports isn't being abandoned.

Each year, hundreds of rugby players have gathered at the Edgley Field on Black Friday, for the "Apple Pie Sevens." 

It's a competition in memory of Josias Sterling, a 19-year-old Temple University rugby player, who drowned at the Jersey shore in 2009.

"Josias and my son were in knee-deep water, and got pulled out by a riptide.  And Josias was lost," said Bill Gregory, Sterling's coach at St. Joseph's Preparatory School.

Sterling didn't know how to swim. The tournament, named after his fondness for apple pie, has raised about $10,000 each year to pay for swimming lessons for inner-city kids at the Salvation Army's Kroc Center in Nicetown. 

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Captain Tawny Cowen-Zanders says in all, 1500 children have received water safety training.

"Individuals who would not have had the opportunity, who don't have access to a pool,” Cowen-Zanders said. “And it's just an opportunity for them to come and to have water safety and education."

Instead of shopping on this day, John Waldron of Havertown was dressed in a wig and a Santa suit, in memory of his classmate.

"Rugby is an awesome sport,” he said. “It's definitely a team sport where you get people to come out and support each other."

Gregory says it's the final rugby tournament because high school and college teams play into the fall now, and it's more difficult to get teams together on Black Friday.  He says a summer golf tournament will become the primary fundraiser.