Horns' alumna sees giving back as a natural act

Head coach of the University of Lethbridge women's rugby team, Neil Langevin (BA/BEd '91, MEd '10), describes former player and team co-captain, Amanda Riley (nee Richardson, BMgt '10), as "a superstar whose leadership as an athlete has continued on as an alumna."

Therefore it was no surprise when Langevin asked Riley to head an alumni committee for the rugby program that she tackled the task with the same energy and enthusiasm she once used on the field – even in the face of serious health challenges she encountered soon after graduation.

"In 2011, I was diagnosed with Still's disease, which is a rare form of rheumatoid arthritis. Being an athlete, I was used to aches and pains and when I started getting achy and having problems I thought it would go away but it didn't. I have learned a lot from it and I don't take things for granted; I am even happy to do laundry now because for a while there I was having trouble just walking," laughs Riley. "When I was playing rugby, Neil always focused on the power of positive thinking. I think that is one of the really important things I gained from playing on the team. Through everything I have had a positive mindset. It has helped me overcome when my feet did not work for me – and now I am back to exercising and even running a bit."

Amanda Riley
Amanda Riley, pictured here in her playing days with the Horns women's rugby program, initiated an alumni garden party that netted nearly $10,000 for the program.

With her husband often working out of town, Riley had a tremendous amount of support from her family and friends, especially fellow rugby alumni. It is this shared encouragement and sisterhood, as well as a passion for the game, that inspires Riley to continue her involvement with the University's rugby program.

"I initiated some committee meetings last year, inviting local alumni I thought would be interested in helping out. This year we held the first annual Garden Party to raise funds for the program. Because we are strictly a girls' team, we wanted an event that was not a typical dinner. We invited all of the alumni and told them to bring their moms, aunts, sisters, grandmas, anyone they thought would be interested in coming," says Riley. "It was held at a private residence overlooking the coulees. We wore sundresses and sunhats, had appetizers (provided by this year's team) and the coaches and team manager came and served us champagne. It was really nice to meet the current athletes. Now we know who they are when we come and cheer for them at the games."

Money was raised through ticket sales, a silent auction and a 50/50 draw. Bobby Zaremba, a former rugby parent, arranged for Scotiabank to match funds raised through their Bright Future program. The event brought in $9,527, which will be used to support Horns rugby.

Riley 2
The inaugural event appealed to a wide range of Horns alumna, friends, family and supporters of the program.

"As a former athlete I am extremely happy with the support that we received from other alumni and community members. Financially it will give them more opportunities because it supports their general fund. I have heard some of the current athletes can't wait to have their own garden party when they are alumni so we have succeeded in generating interest in supporting the program down the road," says Riley, who is excited to give back to the program that gave her so much.

"Sometimes it was really difficult as a student-athlete, because I had to balance work, school and rugby, but my professors were so good to work with and playing on the rugby team gave me such great opportunities," she says. "I was able to grow as an individual and develop my leadership and communication skills. I learned a lot of invaluable life lessons. The girls I played with have become like family to me. I don't think I could put a dollar value on what I got out of the program."


· Riley played for the Horns from 2005 to 2009 and was a five-time Canada West All-Star and three-time CIS All-Star

· During her time with the Horns, she was on three national championship teams and was a three-time Academic All-Canadian

· She currently works as a staff accountant at KPMG Lethbridge and is articling to be a chartered accountant

This story first appeared in the October 2012 issue of the Legend. To see the full issue in a flipbook format, follow this link.