St John’s Redboys take on backwards bear crawling challenge in memory of their friend and legendary former captain, Sam Fitzsimmons who sadly died of Ewing sarcoma, age 23.

Sam, also known as Fitzy to his friends, has been widely admired for his strength, bravery, and dry sense of humour, which brought laughter into people’s lives when they needed it most. Sam died at home in Cheshire, surrounded by his family on 16th May 2020 - less than two years after he was diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma.

Sam’s friend, James Laudage has organised a bear crawling challenge for Fitzy’s Fund, a Special Fund of the Bone Cancer Research Trust. James and Sam played rugby together for the St John’s Redboys, a college rugby team at Cambridge University. Sam captained the team in 2017/18 and James is the team’s current captain.

To raise vital funds for research into Ewing sarcoma, the team will be crawling a cumulative 777 laps of St. Legend’s pitch, in 21 days. With a lap being 300m, this equates to just over 11km of bear crawls a day – wow!

The rules of the challenge are as follows:

  1. Bears ALWAYS crawl backward
  2. Bears monitor all crawls on strava (or equivalent), and send them off to the Chief Crawl Officer to be added to the total distance
  3. Bears wear clothes, lizards do not

The challenge is set to be completed by Sunday 21st March.

Sam's family shared the below message:

"Bon courage les garcons!” from Capitaine EEE and us.Awesome effort and inspired idea – Sam would definitely have been up for this one! Thanks so much for putting yourselves through this for Sam and BCRT. Ad crawlium.

Kate Connor, Community Fundraising Manager at the Bone Cancer Research Trust, said:

We can't thank you all enough for taking on this absolutely awesome challenge in memory of Sam and for Fitzy’s Fund. We think you’re all truly amazing and you’re doing Sam so proud.

If you'd like to help support the St John's Rugby Club challenge and keep up to date with their progress, please click below.

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Below are some heartfelt messages from some of those taking part in this incredible challenge

James Laudage (4th year, captain):

Sam was the Captain during my first year, so I have experienced first-hand the love he had for the club, and the positive impact he had on the lives of everyone around him – whether it be making sure that freshers actually enjoyed the team socials (something I hear wasn’t always the case in the past), helping revive and train the St John’s College Redgirls, or pioneering the Good Lad initiative to ensure that all those around the team on socials always felt safe and respected. Sam was always down for a laugh, so I think this quirky Redboy-related challenge is a way of supporting the Fitzy Fund which reflects his character and personality, and that he himself would’ve enjoyed participating in.

Mudara Senanayake (6th year (same as sam)):

As a sixth-year student I was lucky enough to know Sam for his whole time at St Johns, having joined the College in the same year. He truly was a great friend, teammate and leader, someone who brought the best out of those around him. After his diagnosis, his bravery and unwavering positivity in the face of such adversity continues to inspire all of us who knew him. Our rugby club meant a lot to Sam, the source of countless memories on and off the pitch. For us to be able to raise money for research into his condition is the least we could do in his memory, and makes the sore shoulders more than worthwhile.

William Saunter (4th year, captain 2019/20):

Coming to University as an 18 year old was a formative period in my life. To have someone with Sam's compassion, humour and strength of character to look up to had an incredible impact on my time here. He was an amazing friend and I will never forget his energy and desire to help others, even in his final few months. The fund that he and his family set up is already having a great impact and anything you can give would be greatly appreciated!

Eddie Kembery (fresher):

I never met Sam, but a lot of the rugby team knew him personally. He helped set the ethos and make it a great environment to play sport in. Since we started the bear crawls, everyone’s been chipping in, because that’s the sort of community he created. This collective fundraiser feels especially important during lockdown, because it’s fairly easy to hunker down and just think about yourself. Sam didn’t, even in the late stages of bone cancer. I think if he was still here, this is exactly the sort of thing he would get involved in.

Hugo Lloyd Williams (second year):

This bear crawl challenge has been an amazing way for the team to come together for a really great cause. I only met Sam briefly last year, but I was struck by how genuinely lovely he was, and how much he cared about the Redboys. I remember him telling me at our Old Boys social that the club wasn't just about rugby, but about the lifelong friends and memories you form, and I feel like this spirit of camaraderie has been really epitomised by the 20-30 boys crawling in memory of Sam every day for the last two weeks.

Zac Bischoff (third year, vice captain):

Sam graduated from Johns a few months before I matriculated, so I just missed out on playing alongside him on St Legends. I only met him twice at the annual Oldboys events, so I can’t claim to know him as others did, however from those two occasions I learnt so much. His kindness and upbeat attitude shone through, and he talked to me about what he learnt from his captaincy, and really believed in me and pushed me to go for the role too. I know I am not alone when I say he inspired me, and I’m sure his legacy will continue to do so for generations of Redboys.