TONAWANDA, N.Y. – Kenmore West sophomore Cory Ratka is ranked as a top 50 high school rugby player in the country. He plays varsity for Kenmore West and is a member of the Buffalo rugby club.
Cory was competing in one of seven regional all-star rugby tournaments organized by USA Rugby in Pittsburgh when he was chosen for the All-Americans winter camp. Cory is the first person from Western New York ever selected for the elite USA rugby training camp.
“My coach talked to me and told me I could do it and I am good enough to be on that level,” Cory Ratka explained.
But the camp takes place in Arizona and was told the trip would be too expensive. That’s when Kenmore West rugby head coach Bill Conrad stepped in.
“Originally they said no and I said no that’s not an option, I’ll raise the money myself,” Bill Conrad said.
And he did raise the money, but not alone. With the help of Cory’s teachers, friends, teammates and many more, the community raised over one thousand dollars so Cory could attend the camp.
“We came up with a challenge and we challenged the teachers over at Kenmore West and some of the alumni from Kenmore and said hey if you raise this amount of dollars, we’ll match it. They not only raised the amount that was needed but doubled it so it was quite outstanding,” Coach Conrad said.
The money raised will cover Cory’s transportation and cost of attendance. What is even more impressive is the amount of time it took to raise the money.
“It was something that was word of mouth and through email and within a 24 hour period so it was really quick. I think it’s something that demonstrates how the community pulls together when there’s somebody who needs help or assistance,” Kenmore West principal Dean Johnson explained.
“It’s just outstanding, you see that kind of generosity throughout Kenmore quite a bit. It’s just a wonderful place to work, it’s a great community to live in and just the outpouring was amazing. It was pretty awesome, I mean his mom was in tears,” Coach Conrad said.
“The Buff State rugby coach paid for half the flight, he had enough points so it was just amazing to see that and it was just awesome,” Coach Conrad pointed out.
If there’s one thing Cory has learned from this whole experience, it’s his community will always have his back.
“If you ever need something there’s always there for you and we’re always together and they’ll always give you support and help,” Cory said.
Cory will leave for Phoenix where the camp is held the day after Christmas. In the meantime, he’ll continue with wrestling in the winter. As if that wasn’t enough, Cory also plays varsity football in the fall.