In the 1990’s the administration at Lawrence Park Collegiate Institute in Toronto decided that the sport of football was no longer worth the share of the school’s budget, almost killing a tradition that had been a major part of the school since 1937.
What the administration didn’t count on was running into the passion and fervour of a young alumnus named Chuck Richardson. A former player, and at the time I believe a volunteer coach of the Panthers, Chuck quickly rallied his former teammates and those that came before him. Golf tournaments, fundraisers, donations, and protests all quickly ensued. Chuck led his band of rebels with a righteous tone and t-shirts that read “I’m With Chuck”.
The Lawrence Park admin had unleashed a storm they couldn’t control.
Upon saving the program, Chuck worked like mad to ensure it’s survival. He founded the Lawrence Park Football Alumni Association, created alumni lists, started annual golf tournaments, invented an annual exhibition game between Lawrence Park and North Toronto called the Parn-Reynolds Cup, and began selling to anyone who would buy into his vision in order to get them to help.
I was one such person. In 1998 Chuck recruited me from another school to take over the reins at Lawrence Park. Though he loved coaching and was great at it, Chuck wanted to focus on fundraising, his career, and his health. The plan was for me to help him for a year and then assume the head coaching role. But as fate would have it, Chuck’s plan to ease back from football was thrown through a major loop. That year, the teachers adopted a work to rule protest and once again Lawrence Park football was on the brinks. Not just at our school but all schools in Toronto.
Chuck and many others around the province jumped into the void. He created the Metro Toronto Wildcats, got a permit for the field, and loaned the Wildcats the Lawrence Park equipment since it was actually owned by the LPFAA.
The rest is much more than history.
Chuck spent the next twenty years of his life devoted to the Metro Toronto Wildcats. He also coached junior and senior at Lawrence Park for as long as he could, regularly helped fundraise, and worked hard to keep the legacy of the Parn-Reynolds Cup alive.
I am personally grateful for his introducing me to Lawrence Park football which ranks closely behind my family and my business in my personal pecking order.
But my voice of thanks is just one compared to the thousands of lives he has impacted through the Wildcats. Boys, girls, parents, coaches, and volunteers by the thousands owe it to Chuck. He created opportunities where only dust existed. All who were given an opportunity to experience and love the game the way Chuck did. He found a way for the talented and the clumsy, the rich and the poor, literally the black and the white to bond together. He produced NCAA, USPORTS, NFL, CFL, and even GFL players. (Trivia question – what is the GFL???)
In short, Chuck created a community of which he was head cheerleader, head coach, and mayor.
Unfortunately, that community lost their leader on July 24th when Chuck passed away (suddenly) at the age of 54.
But this blog shouldn’t be about the final whistle to Chuck’s career. This blog should be about doing something for the community and kids in your neighbourhood. This blog is about fighting for what is important. This blog is about impact.
While we didn’t always get along or see eye to eye, after all, what would sports be without some disagreements, there is one thing I want you to remember. “I’m With Chuck.”