Three prominent LGBT sports teamseach independent of a large, local governing bodyare joining forces for a fundraiser and to simply help raise aware about themselves.
The inaugural Field Day is set for Saturday, Nov. 17, 3:30-6:30 p.m., at Sidetrack in Lakeview, and will showcase the Chicago Gay Hockey Association (CGHA), the Chicago Rowing Union (CRU) and the rugby-playing Chicago Dragons.
"While this [event] is a fundraiser, all three teams realize that the ultimate challenge we face is keeping active and staying visible and relevant to the community as a whole," said David Stefanski, in his fourth season skating for the CGHA Red Liners. "This event is to ensure our place in the community as a safe space for any and all players of our respective sports to participate and learn."
Stefanski, 27, lives in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood and graduated from Loyola Academy in suburban Wilmette where he played for the Ramblers' hockey team. He is a tax accountant by day, defenseman for the CGHA during its night-time games.
"After attending numerous events for each team, I decided that a joint event would make for better outreach and ultimately be a lot more fun for all of our fans and supporters," Stefanski said. "The CGHA, CRU and the Dragons are independent sports teams that require their own resources for player recruitment, fundraising, travel and community outreach. Pooling our resources at an event like this is really going to help each team accomplish those goals more efficiently and effectively.
"We hope that this is as successful of an event as it can be. People are excited because an event like this has never been done before and it really has the potential to reach a much wider audience than previous events held by each team individually."
None of the three participating teams is aligned with an LGBT sports association, such as the Chicago Metropolitan Sports Association (CMSA) or the Athletic Alliance of Chicago (AAC).
"Teams within CMSA or AAC have the ability to compete in their own officially LGBT-sanctioned leagues, such as softball or volleyball, which is great. But for sports with less of a presence as a whole in Chicago, we may only have enough players to fill one team, two teams at the most," Stefanski said. "This means that in order to compete at the next level of LGBT play outside of our local area, we need to travel to other areas of the country, and sometimes, around the world to network and play with other LGBT players in our sport. That said, the three teams participating have done a phenomenal job of doing that, and we have combined our resources to ensure that we can keep that level of play up for many years to come."
Tito's Vodka is one of the main sponsors for the event, and there will be a wide variety of door prizes and auctions.
Each team will be hosting different games and contests to test the athletic skills of attendees.
"This is the first in what we hope will be an annual event," Stefanski said. "We are incredibly excited to be getting this off the ground after months of planning, and are definitely looking ahead to next year's event as well."
Tickets to Field Day are $20 in advance, and are available at chicagogayhockey.org/sports-field-day; at the door, tickets are $25.