Wednesday, 6 July 2022
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Wednesday, 6 July 2022

Volunteers played key roles in the UK’s biggest rugby league festival

RHINOS Challenge 2022 saw 175 teams and over 6,000 people take part at Butlins award-winning resort in Skegness, Lincolnshire recently.

Helping to deliver the ground-breaking event were volunteers Harrison Watkins, Damien Dixon, Conor Vanderwert and Mathew Bright. The team, who have learning disabilities, are supported to live independently by Community Integrated Care.

The group are part of the social care charity’s Inclusive Volunteering Programme with the Rugby League World Cup 2021 and Sport England. The scheme sees the charity provide training, mentoring, and volunteering experiences to people to people who access care and support, inspired by Rugby League and the tournament, which helps to develop their life skills, passions, and independence.

The charity’s Sports Inclusion Specialist Ben Berry explained exactly how much the quartet got out of the event, and the opportunity to spend a weekend away from home. 

Ben said: 

“Community Integrated Care has a deep connection with the Leeds Rhinos Foundation and this weekend was a superb example of the partnership. 

“It was great to see the Rhinos including our volunteers in such a major tournament and trusting them with such important roles.

“They helped to manage pitches and keep time in games. These placements gave them an exciting platform to further develop their skills and achieve something amazing together.

“Finding meaningful vocational experiences for people who need support in their daily lives can be challenging in many communities. It is also very difficult for many people to find the funds to go on holiday. This experience offered both an incredible break and an exciting work placement, so Leeds Rhinos Foundation deserves huge credit for helping to make this happen. 

“At Community Integrated Care we aspire to enable people to live the best lives possible. The volunteers enjoyed a weekend that they will never forget – watching the sun going down from the beach, visiting the fairground, and going swimming. This experience represented everything that is special about our charity.” 

Volunteers played key roles in the UK’s biggest rugby league festival

Community Integrated Care Support Worker, Kate Woodford, saw first-hand the impact had on the volunteers. 

Kate explained: 

“The Inclusive Volunteering Programme has really supported Harrison, Damian, Conor and Matthew to develop new skills and build the confidence to get more from life. 

“It was amazing to see the positive impact the volunteering with Leeds Rhinos Foundation had on the group. They absolutely loved the chance to work together and be part of such a special event. They also had a fantastic holiday too, with lots of swimming, funfairs and arcades. Experiences like this really inspire them and they are already looking forward to their next volunteering adventure.”

Leeds Rhinos Foundation Head of Community Gareth Cook says the relationship between the two charities is going from strength to strength. 

Volunteers played key roles in the UK’s biggest rugby league festival

Gareth added: 

“We have worked with Community Integrated Care for several years and the partnership continues to develop.

“Rhinos Challenge is one such opportunity. The event is a major rugby league tour for 7-14 year olds and we were delighted that Ben could bring a group of volunteers to experience it. 

“The event, held at Butlins in partnership with ESF Events, brings together 6,000 people, of which 2,000 are junior rugby league players.

“The volunteers really made a big difference, helping our pitch managers to ensure that teams got onto the pitches on time to keep to the tight schedule. They had busy roles, but they worked together brilliantly, and it was great to see them having such fun.  

“We’d like to thank the team for their hard work and efforts. We hope they are very proud of what they achieved and we look forward to having them back next year.”

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