The Redboys at the start of their challenge.SJCRUFC

Sam Fitzsimmons was the former captain of St Johns’ Rugby Club before he sadly passed away from Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare type of bone cancer. So, in their final three weeks of term, the St Johns’ Redboys have pledged to complete 777 laps of St Legend’s pitch – this equates to around 11km per day – in support of Bone Cancer Research Trust. To donate, please click here.

Mudara, who was at college alongside Sam, paid tribute to him. He said: “Sam was pretty incredible before any of this – he was the life of the party in college, everyone knew him and loved him.” He described how during that summer, despite suffering from multiple tumours and a spinal fracture, Sam hiked through the peaks and how, a week after enduring a chemotherapy course, he went travelling through Thailand. Mudara said that Sam “wasn’t going to let this stop him from doing what he wanted” and that it “spoke to his strength of character and determination that he continued to live his life as best he could to make the most of the time he had left.” He went on to recall how every time Sam was back in college, he would always be concerned about other people and put them above himself and he never lost his humour which was, in Mudara’s words, “incredible to see in the face of such an unimaginable adversity”.

“He continued to live his life as best he could to make the most of the time he had left.”

James, who joined the Redboys as a fresher with Sam as his captain, recalled how he was extremely welcoming. He said: “You hear the rumours about the John’s rugby boys so I was almost a bit confused turning up because there was the nicest man ever as captain.” He, too, mentioned that Sam was always looking out for people, whether it was in a social or training capacity or even on the academic side of things. James remembered how, early on in his first year, if Sam spotted that he was struggling with some chemistry work he would come over to help. He also mentioned how Sam pioneered the GoodLad workshops, now known as Beyond Equality, and had such a massive influence on the whole vibe of the team that he changed its culture.

Matt and Hugo of SJCRUFCNordin Ćatić

But this challenge isn’t simply a run or a walk. They are of course, in true Redboys tradition, bear crawling… backwards. Zac, Vice-President of the Redboys, explained the reason for this: “If you’re late to Redboys training, for every minute you’re late, you have to crawl 10m of bear crawls backwards.” He highlighted the importance of incorporating Redboys traditions into this fundraiser, as they were a major part of Sam’s life. After a quiet year for the team with so much hindered by the COVID-19 restrictions, James remarked that this challenge has “brought life back into it again and couldn’t have come at a better time”.

The Redboys are crawling 777 laps for Sam.SJCRUFC

Eddie spoke about how, as a fresher, they haven’t had the chance to meet people, especially without having had the chance to play rugby. But he has found that this fundraiser has brought everyone together and has been very social among the freshers, while also giving them the chance to meet pre-existing members of the club. He mentioned how going out to complete the crawls has been a great way of balancing work and now, as term comes to a close and workload lessens, it’s getting more and more competitive between the boys. Hugo also reiterated that, in a term where everyone has been forced apart, this challenge really has kept the Redboys together.

“For those who are diagnosed only after the disease has spread, survival rates plummet to approximately 25%.”

The Redboys are currently on their way to achieving their target total – a goal which has changed over the course of the challenge. The goal started off at £1709.40 which equates to a pint of Tetley’s per lap which Zac described as the beverage “where we, as Redboys, flop to the bar on a Sunday and drink as the nectar to warm our throats”. With a steady flow of donations coming in, Zac mentioned how they then moved up to the “more premium beverage of Guinness” per lap, equating to a second target of £2836.05. Upon reaching that target, naturally they decided to ambitiously go for the equivalent of a full LBC per lap, amounting to an impressive £5128.20 target. On a similar note to the bear crawls theme, Zac mentioned that the added fun and comedy value of the challenge is the kind of thing Sam would have wanted – as he “really loved the culture and gave so much to it”.

SJCRUFC with the former Redboys SJCRUFC

The money they are raising goes directly to the Bone Cancer Research Trust and also counts towards the total raised for Fitzy’s Fund. Mudara pointed out: “bone sarcomas are very rare but have a bad prognosis” – for those who are diagnosed only after the disease has spread, survival rates plummet to approximately 25%. He commented that “any money that could help find better treatments or produce earlier diagnoses is something Sam would have wanted”. St John’s also have The Sam Fitzsimmons Fund which is made up of a bursary and travel grant. Sam wanted to establish such a bursary to support Johnian athletes and it will sponsor a minimum of one state-school student a year who participates in sport at St John’s. Alongside this, the travel grant in Sam’s name aims to encourage Johnian students to explore the world.


Mountain View

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It’s overwhelmingly clear that Sam left behind a great legacy at St John’s and his words continue to inspire many. Following his diagnosis, Sam participated in The Naked Student Podcast with Luke Wolstenholme to discuss the meaning of life, how we all should embrace our feelings and the importance of gratitude – his words truly resonated with me and I would encourage everyone to listen to it here.

Now, with less than a week of the challenge to go, the boys showed great enthusiasm in reaching their fundraising target and completing the challenge, with Hugo promising a 5km crawl on the final day! Sam’s energy and character obviously still permeates through the club and it was great to listen to their dedication to such a worthy cause and cherished friend – please help them reach their target! Keep track of their progress and to donate, click here.