On June 4th, each King will don the navy and gold uniforms to kick-off the 2017 USA Rugby League season with a home-opener against the Philadelphia Fight.
During each match, the Brooklyn Kings not only represent the borough from which they take their name, but the players also carry the logo of the Nicole Fitzsimons Foundation (NFF) on the left sleeve of their jerseys—a constant reminder of a cherished partnership the team holds dear.
“The Foundation was established in honor of my darling daughter, Nicole, who was killed in a motorcycle accident in Thailand in October 2012,” Julie Fitzsimons said. “Nicole would never ride a bike in Australia, yet she relaxed her safety standards and adopted the local culture. [This] tragically cost her life, and left our family with eternal heartache.”
A gifted dancer, Nicole also relished sports reporting and was on the cusp of reaching her dreams—she only had two weeks left of journalism school before the calamity.
The Fitzsimons daughter worked on The Footy Show, an entertainment television program, where she met the now-owner of the Brooklyn Kings, Matt Bailey.
“Nicole was fun, bubbly and full of energy,” said Bailey. “She always had a huge smile on her face, especially when watching Rugby League. Nicole was infectious and someone everyone loved having around. Her legacy through the foundation is a testament to this.”
To honor Nicole, the foundation has two major goals.
“One is to educate senior high school students of safe travel, and the other is to honor Nicole’s passion for sport and dance,” explained Julie.
Amongst all of the Foundation’s volunteers, there are a few full-time workers, including Nicole’s younger sister Kate.
Shocked by the number of misfortunes and challenges that befall people every day while traveling, Kate gave up her corporate career in order to fully devote herself to advocating for appropriate travel safety.
According to the NFF website, “Kate researched and designed a presentation with travel safety tips—including necessity of travel insurance that caters for your trip, respecting local culture, Smartraveller avoiding cheap drinks, and much more with a travel safety guide to give each student to place in their passport holder to remind them when traveling.”
As a participant and fan of the arts and athletics, Nicole appreciated the chances and resources which allowed for her to pursue her interests and develop her talents. However, it saddened Nicole to see some of her friends, who were equally determined in their pursuits, have to give up on their dance or other athletic aspirations due to a lack of finances.
Consequently, the foundation also aims to help build more stepping stones for exceptional dancers and athletes by bestowing numerous grants. The NFF established scholarships in Nicole’s honor, and launched a ‘Dance from Your Heart’ five-week instructive dance program.
“NFF has made over thirty grants—including purchasing a tandem bike for a blind triathlete, a cricket kit for a country girl to play in Holland, and dance classes for a girl whose mum was dying of pancreatic cancer,” said Julie.
Besides impacting Australia, the foundation also spread its reach to the Mission in Action Orphanage in Kenya. There, the NFF placed an American teacher and paid for sound systems to expose the children to ballet and jazz.
In 2014, the Brooklyn Kings partnered with the NFF to help the foundation expand its global influence.
“The NFF and the Kings is a natural pairing,” said Bailey. “Nicole was a huge fan of Rugby League, and we wanted to amplify the foundation’s presence internationally here in the U.S. We’ve had the NFF logo on our sleeve from day one, and our partnership continues to grow each year.”
In addition to wearing the NFF logo, the Kings have also set up ‘The NFF Award.’
Each year, this honor is given to the player who best exemplifies what it means to dedicate oneself to the Kings, who goes above and beyond for his teammates, and who is an overall strong role model for the team.
“When I first heard I won the NFF award, it was like a wish was granted,” Odain Brown, the 2014 NFF Award recipient, said. “The foundation gave me the opportunity to explore Australia and experience the sport I fell in love with first hand. The NFF has also inspired me to travel and see more of what the world has to offer. I am forever in their debt.”
The Kings will continue to represent the NFF on and off the field this season. Achieving success in the USARL is one mission, however, continuing to spread Nicole’s story and develop the Fitzsimons Foundation in the States is also a top priority.
“It’s an amazing partnership,” said Bailey. “Jules, Kate, and the entire NFF organization are part of the Kings family.”