Leeds Rhinos Foundation provide unique matchday experience inclusive volunteering programme

Leeds Rhinos Foundation joined forces with Community Integrated Care and RLWC2021 to give members of their Inclusive Volunteering Programme the chance to showcase their talents and enjoy a unique matchday experience at Emerald Headingley Stadium last Friday.

Community Integrated Care is currently leading a world first Inclusive Volunteering Programme with the Rugby League World Cup 2021, thanks to funding and support from Sport England. The programme is giving more than 300 people, including players from the Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League competition, life-changing opportunities to discover and unlock their potential, through providing aspirational experiences, volunteering placements and specialist mentoring.

In recognition of its impact, Leeds Rhinos Foundation invited a group of the volunteers to the Rhinos’ final home game of 2021 to take part in a number of matchday roles and enjoy the chance to watch a live Super League match from the comfort of the Foundation Community Hub, which offers a safe and welcoming space for community groups to use on gameday plus a fantastic seat right on the halfway line at the back of the Tetley’s South Stand.

Ranging from photography and DJ’ing to artwork and baking, the matchday visit gave individuals the unique opportunity to apply their talents across a number of different areas and fulfil their potential on a huge stage, as well as showcasing their work to hundreds of supporters, staff and visitors at Emerald Headingley.

After creating a series of illustrations of Rugby League players and coaches through the programme’s artwork project, Jenny Robinson- alongside her partner Declan Jenkinson, who stars for the Leeds Rhinos LD Super League team- was able to fulfil a lifelong dream of having their own art exhibition for visitors to enjoy. There was even a special visit made by members Sky Sports broadcasting team, with Jenny able to personally hand over her illustration of Terry O’Connor to the man himself and promising his on-screen partner Barrie McDermott that his request for a portrait would be met, such was his appreciation of her work.

The presenting duo also took the time to chat with some of the other volunteers about their roles in the LD Super League and were grateful to be given homemade cake whipped up by members of the group to take away and share out with their Sky Sports and Super League colleagues.

Reflecting on an unforgettable evening, Jenny said: “I just want to thank Community Integrated Care and Leeds Rhinos Foundation for giving me the chance to work on this volunteering programme, giving me the chance to show off my artwork plus meeting Terry O’Connor and Barrie McDermott which was such an honour.

“I have never been given that sort of opportunity before, so it meant so much to me and it was an amazing experience. This was also the first ever match I have watched live other than LDSL games. It’s been an incredible journey from me never seeing rugby or knowing much about the sport, to now being able to go see the Rhinos live and volunteering at the game. I had an amazing time and I would love to go do it again.”

Having organised the matchday visit for the volunteering group, Community Integrated Care’s Facilitator Ben Berry said: “Last Friday’s visit to Emerald Headingley presented an incredible opportunity for our Community Integrated Care inclusive volunteers and it proved to be an incredible night for them all.

“The volunteers have been developing new skills, gaining crucial experience and working with professionals on a variety of projects, and they finally got to put this into action at a major sporting event which was fantastic.

“The experiences which they have received from this volunteering work were truly invaluable and will hopefully act in propelling individuals to find further volunteering and paid work too.

“We would like to offer huge thank you to Leeds Rhinos Foundation for their support with this programme and their commitment to helping us changing people’s lives through volunteering placements such as this.”

For more information about the inclusive volunteer programme launched by Community Integrated Care and RLWC2021, please visit https://www.rlwc2021.com/article/274/rlwc2021-and-community-integrated-care-launch-ground-breaking-inclusive-volunteer-programme.

To find out how your community group could enjoy a matchday experience with Leeds Rhinos Foundation, please contact [email protected].