Passion and Purpose are a great combination and I can report that a recent rugby fundraiser was a resounding success thanks to a good dose of both. For the 250 NZ & NY hearts who came to the event at 375 Hudson Street, New York, thanks for your generosity of sharing and friendship. The event was initiated by Auckland University of Technology (AUT) and supported by New Zealand Trade & Enterprise and Saatchi & Saatchi, and was part of New Zealand’s 2011 Rugby World Cup international build-up which is happening around the world.
The rugby movement is growing in America. This year 200,000 young people have played rugby for the first time for a season. With the help of the $23,000 raised by the event, two rugby players from New York City public schools, where rugby has been introduced, will be coming to New Zealand to study, play rugby, and get immersed in the great New Zealand culture. The sum will also be used to fund coach/player exchanges between the US and New Zealand.
AUT Chancellor and former New Zealand Governor-General Sir Paul Reeves led the powhiri, (a formal welcoming ceremony), gave an intense Maori oration which had New York jaws dropping because of its fluency and purpose, and then welcomed everyone with a joke about when he last lived in Chelsea. He is a singularly impressive New Zealander.
Between NZ wine, beer and food there were auctions, speeches and a panel I led with New Zealand greats Michael Jones, Frano Botica, and Tawera Nikau, USA Rugby development champion Mark Griffin and sports marketer supremo Andrew Gould from NYC & Company. Rugby players have a natural, exuberant humor and a gift for storytelling, and the panel and the audience rocked together with laughter.
I was then surprised when Sir Paul on behalf of AUT made me the amazing honor of awarding me a mere, which is a flat stone weapon used by Maori warriors. Made from pounamu, New Zealand jade, the mere is a symbol of chieftainship. Topping this off, Maori present further honored me with a Haka, the iconic battle dance practiced by the All Blacks, capable (as those who face it have frequently discovered) of winning a rugby game before kick off.
Thanks very much to all involved.
PS here is a great video of the event filmed by Lynette Chiang, an original Lovemarks believer who came from Bike Friday and Saatchi & Saatchi back when. The video is 4+ minutes and worth every second. The Haka had been performed on Good Morning America by Tawera, Michael and Frano with guest Denzel Washington who was on the show talking about this latest film. http://www.galfromdownunder.com/about/
Video from galfromdownunder.com