If I had to pick the most inspirational event I’ve been to so far this year it would have to be an evening at Allianz Park a the Saracens Sports Foundation Patrons Event. I was lucky enough to go last year as part of the Supporters Association and was so impressed by what I saw that I had to start donating, so returned as a Patron this time round.
Out on a school night again, the drive was a smooth one and with no work on A Friday I was able to enjoy the evening without worrying about a 6am alarm!
I made one school girl error in changing into heels when I arrived, I should have known that wouldn’t work, and was back in flats pretty quickly! Gordon Banks, now Stadium Manager at Allianz Park, started proceedings with a bit of formal chat before we were split into 3 groups, this was going to mean flat shoes were needed!
Rather than show a video or slideshow the plan was to show us some of the work being carried out. My group started with Nordic Walking part of the Active For Life Programme for Over 50’s – I have a pair of walking sticks I inherited from my Mum and pretty much had no idea what they were! Now I do, this is walking with a difference, it’s fitness walking if that makes sense? The use of the poles engages the body in a healthier, stronger way. It was great to see two of the Saracens partake and hear about the regular sessions held.
Next up for our group was Walking Football, Roanne Crouse leading from the Foundation decided it should be men against women. I wonder if he realised he’d start a virtual war! Well, not quite, but my goodness both sides were competitive, but the ladies most of all, it was fun to see their determination, especially those who’d stuck with heels! And I do believe the ladies won! What a great version of this game, again it’s in place for the Over 50’s but I can see it working with girls reluctant to exercise too!
We were led inside next to watch some of the work of the Sarries Skills Club, it was truly wonderful to watch the enjoyment on the faces of those taking part! The focus of the club is to focus on the word Ability in the word DisABILITY and wow who the lives of some of those involved have been enhanced! To see the joy on the faces of these young people when they scored a try was reason enough to have made the drive.
Dinner followed the fun and games and we were treated to a very tasty lasagne followed by cheesecake! Gordon again came to the front, but this time to introduce Owain Davies, Sports Development Manager, Owain himself has been involved in a major, life changing piece of work this year. He’s been running week in week out with Peter Looker-Biddle a young man with complex needs. Peter has severe autism yet took part in and completed the Vitality British 10K London Run, helping to raise over £4000 for the Foundation. It was wonderful to hear from Mark who attends the Skills Club and is now running with Peter and Owain every week, he was a total delight, and it was plain to see the regard he had for the Saracens Sports Foundation men.
Next up was Jack Cook, a young man with a story very close to my heart, he was involved in the Hitz Rugby Project. This runs in every Premiership Club and aims to help vulnerable, disaffected young people. Jack spoke eloquently and with confidence as he told his story. School wasn’t for him and he became one of those leaving without a single GCSE to his name, he told me after the event that his Headteacher told him he would amount to nothing! He also found himself homeless at 16, but spotted Hitz Rugby through his local council. After taking part in what was on offer at the Hitz Rugby Project Jack has achieved, he has those GCSE’s thanks to the help of those working through Saracens and is looking to join the army shortly. His life has literally been turned around, and he can most certainly prove his Headteacher wrong!
This was a wonderful evening, it’s great to see the work being done through rugby. Those involved are passionate about changing lives and are doing so on a daily basis. Here’s more information – it’s really easy to donate and help this work to thrive. http://www.saracens.com/foundation/