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Ashburn (Oct. 17, 2013) – Ashburn is a football town. Whether it’s the top-notch high school teams that compete on Friday nights, the vastly popular Ashburn Youth Football League that prepares kids for those Friday nights, or the currently not so top-notch professional team that calls Ashburn home, football permeates the community in ways that stretch well beyond the gridiron. Perhaps the best example of football serving as the mortar that binds this suburban community together is the now annual “Battle for a Better Cause,” which this Friday night at 7 pm will once again pit rivals Briar Woods and Broad Run against each other in an event to help raise money and awareness of childhood cancer in memory of Ashburn’s Gavin Rupp and the iPromise15 foundation.
The event grew out of one of the area’s best football rivalries. During the 2010 season, Broad Run saw its 33-game winning streak snapped by an up-and-coming Briar Woods team quarterbacked by then freshmen Trace McSorley. Later that season, Briar Woods would beat the Spartans again in the playoffs en route to their first of now three-straight VHSL Division 4 state titles.
Sensing perhaps an uptick in tension and maybe even some bad-blood between the two Ashburn schools, in swooped a cadre of those super-hero like folks everyone comes to depend on when things start to go awry: moms. A group of football parents from both schools ran with the idea to turn a great football rivalry into something more, and thus was born the Battle for a Better Cause.
“It was a way for us to find common ground and to channel that energy from the rivalry and turn it into something positive,” said Andrea McSorley, mother of the now senior Briar Woods quarterback, Trace McSorley.
The inaugural Battle for a Better Cause took place in 2011. As its name indicates, the event needed a cause, and the organizers decided to support The Ryan Diviney Special Needs Trust, which was established to help fund the long-term care needs of Diviney, an Ashburn resident and former Broad Run football player, who suffered traumatic brain injuries after being attacked as a student at West Virginia University. His cause was brought to the organizers attention in part by Broad Run head coach Matt Griffis, whose team also raised money for Ryan’s Trust during their annual Maroon and Gold scrimmage.
But more than just a worthy cause, the event organizers wanted something to help show the Ashburn community was united even in the midst of an intense football rivalry. Spurred by the popular “white out” events at various sporting events across the country, the super moms worked with the folks at Reston Shirt and Graphic Company, Inc. to design a signature t-shirt for the game. Provided at cost by the company, the shirts were sold at both schools, with proceeds going to the Diviney Trust. Fans from both schools and supporters of the cause bought the shirts in droves, and filled the stands to capacity to create a sea of white that created exactly the effect the organizers hoped for: a symbol of a community united.
“Ashburn came together. It wasn’t just Briar Woods it wasn’t just Broad Run, all of Ashburn came together,” said Alicia Yancy, a Broad Run team mom and event volunteer.
The event was a success and was equaled if not bested last year when the focus was on raising money and awareness for juvenile diabetes research after the tragic death of Cameron Carter, a Briar Woods student and younger sister of Alex Carter, a former standout football player at Briar Woods now playing at Stanford University.
This year’s event will support another more than worthy cause, the iPromise15 foundation which is dedicated to the memory of Gavin Rupp and aims to raise awareness and funding for researching childhood cancers. This past July, 13-year-old Gavin lost a 3-year battle with brain cancer. An avid sports fan and athlete, Gavin turned to playing baseball when cancer stole his ability to participate in his favorite sport, football. Rupp’s battle caught the attention of Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, and the two met and spent time together at Nats Park this past summer. During Major League Baseball’s Home Run Derby, Harper identified his friend Gavin as someone he knew who was affected by cancer as part of a cancer awareness event supported by MLB.
“This year I’ve been approached since springtime about doing the game for Gavin. Teachers from Broad Run contacted me, my friends at Briar Woods contacted me, people at AYFL contacted me, and when Gavin did pass, I was bombarded. All of Ashburn came to me and said ‘Please, can we do the game for Gavin?’ I am overwhelmed still about how many people wanted to make the game about him,” said Catherine Larco, Briar Woods team mom and event organizer.
With full support from Gavin’s parents, dozens of volunteers from both schools and the surrounding community have once again set out on their task to channel the energy and excitement created by a football rivalry into support for not only Gavin’s cause, but also continued awareness and support for the Diviney Trust and juvenile diabetes research in memory of Cameron Carter.
“It’s really about bringing the kids together and making them realize there is more to life than just a football game,” said McSorley.
This year, the official “Battle for a Better Cause” t-shirt — once again provided at cost by Reston Shirt and Graphic Company, Inc — includes the colors of Gavin’s favorite college football team, Ohio State, and also has Gavin’s number 15 on the back. T-shirts cost $10 and can be purchased at Friday night’s game.
For more information on the event and how to donate money and get involved, follow the Battle for a Better Cause’s official page on Twitter @battleforacause and on Facebook, Battle For a Better Cause 2013. Event details and additional t-shirt sale locations will be posted on both sites.
Most importantly, come out to the game at Briar Woods on Friday night, which by the way will feature two of the top area teams in a game with playoff implications, as both the Falcons and Spartans enter the contest with just one loss on the season Gates open at 5:30 pm, get there early and be ready to support your team and this overall great event!