Annual benefit raises funds for rugby team, Lost and Found youth org

Purple Dress run headed for Midtown

If you happen to be in Midtown today, don’t be alarmed if you run into well over 100 buzzed big guys traipsing around in purple dresses.

The sixth annual Purple Dress Run, a fundraiser for the Atlanta Bucks gay rugby team, takes over the city that day, and the 55-man team hopes to raise $5,000 with a little help from their friends.

“The term ‘run’ is used loosely as it’s more of a 5k bar run/walk/crawl/waddle/saunter, depending primarily upon which point along the route you survey the participants,” jokes Bucks president Max Alvarado. “Aside from the occasional wardrobe malfunction along the way, we haven’t lost a runner yet.”

The annual event starts this year at Mixx in Ansley Square, then takes contestants to the Nook, Joe’s on Juniper, Blake’s on the Park, the Fifth Ivory and wraps up at the Atlanta Eagle.

There’ll be plenty of games — and drinking — along the way, but the rugby club, which celebrates it’s ninth year on the pitch this July, is raising money primarily for the team’s trip to Manchester, England to compete in the Bingham Cup Tournament at the end of May.

The Bingham Cup is the world championship of gay and gay-inclusive rugby teams and is the largest men’s 15-aside rugby union event outside of the sport’s World Cup. The event was named for Mark Bingham, a gay rugby player who died on United Airlines Flight 93 during the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on Washington, D.C.

“The Bucks plan to raise in excess of $20,000 to help offset the cost of the trip. While it would be nice to fully fund each player’s trip, we’re not in a financial position to do that,” Alvarado adds. “Obviously, the more money we raise, the more we can pass along to the players.”

Alvarado estimates that the trip will cost around $3,000 per player.

The team also hosts monthly first Friday wing and beer busts at the Heretic, and every third Saturday is the team’s fundraising night at the Atlanta Eagle in preparation for their trip across the pond.

A portion of the run’s proceeds will also be donated to Lost and Found Youth, Inc., an Atlanta non-profit dedicated to helping homeless LGBT youth get off the streets and into more permanent housing. The organization also operates a 24-hour hotline and six-bed transitional housing facility.

“The Bucks have been incredible in their support,” says Rick Westbrook, a member of Lost and Found Youth board. “These kids need help, and these guys, they get it.”

‘No such thing’ as gay rugby

Alvarado, who’s been president of the Bucks since July 2011, has been playing rugby with the Bucks for seven years. After high school, he played football, swam competitively and competed in track and field, but ultimately decided “there is no better sport than rugby.”

“Rugby is very much a sport that anyone, regardless of prior experience, athletic ability, or orientation, can learn to play,” he adds. “I started at 30 and I plan to keep going as long as I can, so it’s never too late. I know players in their mid to late 40s who are just as competitive — if not more so — than players in their 20s.  And no one is ever too small or too big to play rugby.”

Or too gay, Alvarado says.

“It’s a common misconception about the term ‘gay rugby,’ There’s no such thing. Rugby is rugby no matter who’s playing it. When you’re out there playing, it’s impossible to tell the difference between gay and straight teams,” he says.

“Rugby players, gay and straight, love to blur the lines when it comes to the concept of manliness and try not to take themselves or their press too seriously.”