The Maryville girls at practice
Teammates, coaches, parents and sponsors must band together to help battle for championships.
The Maryville Rugby Football Club, consisting of players from Blount County high schools, has just that.
Since its inception in 2004, its girls team has five state titles to go along with a pair of runner-up finishes. The MRFC boys teams have a trio of second-place state playoff finishes.
The girls team has finished eighth, fifth and fourth in national championship appearances, while producing a number of High School All-Americans.
"We've had a number of good players over the years," says head coach Jay Hawkins. "But it all comes down to parental support and adding sponsors to help pay for equipment and tournament an travel expenses."
The team just began fall practice for its spring season in the Smoky Mountain High School Rugby League and already has a first for the 2012 season.
Maryville has become the initial supporter of Project 20/20, which is looking to involve 20 Knoxville-area high school sports teams with Early-onset Parkinson's disease fund-raisers by the year 2020.
Project 20/20 was started by former Knoxville Rugby Football Club player Pat Dorwin, who was chosen by his teammates for a rare double as an A side wing and B side fullback for the all-time (1980-2010) Possum teams.
Project 29.29 is partnering with the American Parkinson Disease Association's National Young-onset Center to raise funds. Project 20.20 is in the process of becoming a non-profit organization.
After retiring from the sport in 2000 at the age of 35, Dorwin was diagnosed three years later with Early-onset Parkinson's disease, a progressive neurological disorder.
"It's certainly not the end of the world, but my life has changed dramatically," says Dorwin. "I had always relied on my speed as an athlete, and suddenly it's gone for the most part."
After working through the beginning of 2005 as an editor with The Mountain Press newspaper in Sevier County, Dorwin "retired" to be a stay-at-home dad to Eli, now 7 years old, and later to Addison Grace, now 5.
Wanting to raise money to support the study of Parkinson's, he was the driving force behind starting an event involving the baseball team at his former high school, Farragut.
"We got the OK from then-new head coach Matt Buckner, who has led the Admirals to the last two Class AAA state titles, giving Farragut four in a row and eight overall," said Dorwin, the leading hitter for the Admirals' first state title team in 1982. "Coach Buckner was stepping into a difficult spot in trying to replace Tommy Pharr, who moved on to coach Christian Academy of Knoxville in 2010.
"Plus, coach Buckner moved over from Bearden, where he had just led the Bulldogs to their first state championship playoff appearance," Dorwin said. "He had no idea who I was, just told me I was part of the Admiral family and he'd do something to get things going."
Buckner offered to donate the gate proceeds from the Admirals' annual Throwback Doubleheader and in the last two years more than $4,000 has been raised for the National Parkinson Foundation.
"Most of the credit - and hard work - was done by Ellen Hubrig of http://www.friendlyfellows.com/ in honor of her father and grandfather, who both had Parkinson's," says Dorwin. "I was just the unfortunate spokesman."
Hubrig was able to secure a large-screen TV from Best Buy in Farragut last spring and other items for the silent auctions held during the two baseball games. She also brings in vendors who donate a portion of their proceeds to the NPF.
Dorwin's youngest brother, Pete, was the centerfielder in 1988 on the first of four Farragut state championship runner-up teams, and Pete was diagnosed with Early-onset PD in 2009 at age 39.
See http://www.farragutpress.com/articles/2010/03/12167.html for a story on the brothers.
You can go to http://www.wbir.com/ and search for Parkinson's and it brings up an interview Pat Dorwin did with Live at Five this past spring.
Dorwin said when bringing the idea to former Knoxville Rugby Club teammate Jay Hawkins, he got much the same reaction as he did from Farragut.
"Of course, Jay and I have known each other for a long time, and when I called him he was just as enthusiastic about helping as coach Buckner," Dorwin said. "It's a good feeling when a coach will go out of his way to help, because so many coaches and potential sponsors won't even go to the common courtesy of returning my phone calls and emails."
The spring date for the Maryville fundraiser has not been set. Hawkins said team schedules are due in January and then a fund-raising date can be set.
"We'll do whatever we can to raise money for Young-onset Parkinson's," Dorwin said. "We'll rely on the strong support the Maryville Area Rugby Boosters Association gives the club to get things going and get the word out."
Dorwin may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-363-9014.