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Set up and administered by the family of former Leeds and Great Britain international full-back Bev Risman OBE, the foundation awards grants in a variety of areas with emphasis on social entrepreneurship, education, sporting endeavour, travel and humanity.
Chris Rostron, the Head of RL Cares, said: “On behalf of the many people the charity helps on a daily basis, I would like to thank the Risman Foundation for this generous donation which will help us continue to make a positive difference to Rugby League communities.
“Bev was an influentual figure behind the establishment of Rugby League Cares and it was his vision and passion that led to the charity becoming so important to the lives of so many people.
“The Risman name runs through our DNA in lots of ways, not least through the Rugby League Hall of Fame whose inductees include Bev’s father, the late, great Gus Risman, and this donation cements our relationship.
“We are hugely appreciative of the continued support of Bev and his family.”
Having spent most of their adult lives as a professional Rugby League player, retirement in their early-30s seems a strange concept and one that many struggle to come to terms with.
The independent charity Rugby League Cares works hard with players to help them find successful and rewarding new careers once their playing days are over.
And this weekend (September 10-11), in a new initiative, RL Cares will give players the opportunity to walk off into the sunset, literally, in a special celebration event for retiring or recently retired Rugby League stars.
The Warriors Walk is a player-only two-day get together at which former players will rekindle some of the friendships forged on the field and enjoy once again the unique banter and camaraderie that was such a strong feature of their playing careers.
The group includes ex-Leeds players Kylie Leuluai and Lee Smith, former Warrington duo Paul Cullen and Paul Woods, current Wakefield Trinity welfare manager Stu Dickens, ex-Huddersfield player Larne Patrick, former Hull FC prop Jamie Thackray, ex-Salford, Castleford and Hull KR player Lee Jewitt and former Batley and Halifax prop Keegan Hirst.
The highlight of the weekend is the Warriors Walk itself, which will see the group tackle the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks of Ingleborough, Pen-y-Ghent and Whernside on Saturday.
The players will also spend two nights together receiving advice and information from a range of presenters to help them make a successful transition.
RL Cares Transition Manager Francis Stephenson, who is leading the weekend, said: “This is the first in what we hope will be an annual Warriors Walk and there’s lots of buzz about the activities we have planned.
“I know from my own experience that retiring from playing is never easy and it often feels like a damp squib.
“The Warriors Walk sets out to bring together retiring and recently retired player who are going through, or who have gone through, the same experience and to share with them information and advice so they can be as successful away from the pitch as they were on it.
“We also want to go give them a good time and a weekend to remember: the walk is a bit of a challenge, and players love challenges!”
Many of the players on the Warriors Walk will also be raising funds for Rugby League Cares: you can sponsor any of the players via their Justgiving page
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been keenly felt in Rugby League communities and players, officials and administrators across all levels are working hard to deliver a sport that means so much to so many people.
Most people are showing patience and appreciation for that hard work, as well as continued faith in the game they all love, but in recent months there has been an under-current of misguided and often harmful negativity from some quarters, especially on social media.
Steve McCormack said: “In my role as Head of Welfare at Rugby League Cares, I see on a daily basis how hard everyone in our sport is working and how caring and passionate our stakeholders are.
“I see the sacrifices the players and coaches make to play the games; how our administrators are fighting hard to ensure our sport is thriving when Rugby League, like all sports and businesses, is going through trying times; how hard our match officials are working; the work our club CEOs are doing to ensure we have clubs to support; and the sterling efforts of our community clubs to enhance people’s lives on a daily basis.
“I also see the selfless work the medical staff and Covid officers do at clubs, under immense pressure, to ensure the health and wellbeing of everyone takes precedence.
“It is really important to understand that, even though we all look forward to watching our clubs in action at the weekend, the most important thing is the health of players and staff, and the health of their families. Nothing should compromise this.
“Unfortunately, I also see the impact of some of the unjust negativity the people in our sport receive. We all know that being involved in professional sport comes with pressure and public scrutiny and – in most cases – rightly so.
“However, the tone of some of the comments on social media, especially the hate-filled and ill-informed criticism I read on a daily basis, is both unnecessary and unacceptable.
“No-one in our great game, be they a player, an administrator, a match official or a fan of another club, deserves personal abuse.
“Thankfully, these people are very much in the minority and their behaviour has no place in Rugby League.
“We are rightfully proud of our sport’s ability to rally round and do the right thing when times are tough: we recognise the importance of community, of the wider Rugby League family and of the need to be decent, empathetic and honest.
“Now, more than ever, we need to embrace those values and recognise the impact our actions can have on the wellbeing of others.
“Like all sports, Rugby League is facing some considerable challenges in the post-pandemic era, but we have much to look forward to.
“None of us should ever lose sight of the fact that Rugby League is the best sport in the world, with the best supporters and communities that many are envious of.
“Let’s pull together, look after each other and make sure our game and all the people involved are able to flourish like we know they can.
“Rugby League Cares is proud of the role it plays in supporting our communities and we will continue to put Rugby League people at the heart of everything we do.”
The riders on Rugby League Cares’s epic fundraising adventure will cycle from Niagara Falls to New York City in a stunning kit designed by multi award-winning architectural practice – and Empire State 500 Principal Partners – Studio SDA Architects.
Studio SDA Architects have harnessed the talents of their team of top designers to create the official ride kit, which is based on a stars and stripe design to reflect the American theme of the ride, and incorporates the RL Cares logo in the alternative jersey.
Simon Lewis-Pierpoint, the Managing Director and co-founder of Studio SDA Architects, will again take to the saddle as a member of the Empire State 500 peloton, having completed the UK Red Ride to Wembley from the north of England with RL Cares in both 2018 and 2019.
“As a practice we have been commissioned to create some of the most exclusive luxury properties in the world with some of the most talented and driven architects the industry has to offer.
“Our architects have risen to the challenge of producing the bespoke kit for the Empire State 500. It’s a fantastic fundraising challenge and we think the kit captures the energy and excitement of the event.
“Studio SDA Architects are delighted to support the ride as its Principal Partner. RL Cares does an excellent job across the whole sporting arena and their funds raised will make a real, positive difference to the lives of many people, including the playing community.”
Simon, a former Wigan Warriors and Bradford Bulls player who played his junior rugby in his hometown of Halifax, will join 21 other riders, including ex-England, Great Britain, Bradford and South Sydney star Sam Burgess, on the UK Red Empire State 500.
Head of RL Cares Chris Rostron said: “Simon and his team have done an outstanding job on designing the ride kit and we are delighted to have Studio SDA Architects on board as Principal Partners of the UK Red Empire State 500.
“Simon and Studio SDA Architects have been great supporters of the charity with their involvement in the Ride to Wembley in 2018 and 2019 and we’re delighted that they are continuing our special partnership.”
After attending the Toronto Wolfpack v St Helens fixture on Saturday May 2, the riders will set off from the shadow of the famous Niagara Falls bound for Central Park on a 500-mile off-road cycling challenge.
Over the next four days they will follow the path of the Erie Canal through the historic heart of the Iroquois nation to Albany before heading south through the Catskill mountains and along the Hudson River, arriving in Central Park, Manhattan, on the afternoon of Friday May 8.
Studio SDA Architects were awarded the Northern Design Awards ‘Best Residential Architecture Practice for three consecutive years in 2016, 2017 and 2018, and won Best Residential Architecture Concept in both 2016 and 2017.
To support the work of Rugby League Cares, please sponsor Simon by clicking here
The hugely successful men’s mental fitness programme run by Rugby League Cares will kick-off at the home of the Betfred Super League champions in the New Year.
Offload is a health initiative designed by RL Cares with input from State of Mind and is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund. It helps men tackle issues such as depression and anxiety and develop coping strategies to successfully manage the crises we all face in everyday life.
Staged over 10 weekly ‘fixtures’, Offload is presented by former Rugby League players and officials who share their experiences of dealing with pressure, health problems and challenging situations.
Offload fixtures at St Helens will also feature input from OK TO ASK, a campaign which aims to break down the stigma of talking about suicide.
St Helens has one of the highest suicide rates in the UK – 75 people in the borough have taken their own lives in the last three years – and OK TO ASK focuses on the life-saving conversations anyone could have with someone thinking of suicide.
Liam Parker, Health Projects Manager at RL Cares, said: “Offload has a proven track-record of both changing and saving lives and we are delighted to have opportunity to deliver our programme to the people of St Helens.
“Over 1,000 men across the North West have already attended Offload fixtures and we know from the feedback they have given us what a positive difference it makes to the quality of not only their lives, but the lives of their families and the people around them.
“Working in partnership with Saints Community Development Foundation, St Helens Borough Council and the OK TO ASK campaign will enable us to continue that good work and empower more men to be able to cope, and talk comfortably, about important health issues.”
Chris Chamberlain, Project and Finance Manager at Saints Foundation, said: “After extensive consultation and understanding the local needs from across St Helens, it became evident that Offload would be great to support people within St Helens.
“Saints Foundation has been working hard behind the scenes with partners at the local authority and Rugby League Cares to bring Offload to St Helens. This is an extremely positive project which has worked well in other local areas and we are pleased to bring Offload to St Helens.”
Offload has already acquired national recognition for the successful way it has engaged men in what is traditionally a taboo health subject since it was launched in 2017.
Since then, Offload has made a positive impact on the lives of the men who have attended fixtures run at Salford Red Devils, Warrington Wolves and Widnes Vikings.
Earlier this month, Offload was nominated for a prestigious ‘Sport for Social Change Award’ at the 2019 British Journalist Sport Awards: the programme was also highly rated in an independent evaluation conducted by health experts at Edge Hill University.
That report found that men who have completed a set of Offload fixtures:
Offload fixtures at St Helens are aimed at men aged 16 and over, are free to attend and will take place at the Totally Wicked Stadium with dates and times in early 2020 to be confirmed.
For more information on Offload at St Helens, or to sign up to the programme, please contact Saints Community Development Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Offload has already transformed the lives of over 1,000 men in the North West of England since its launch in April 2017 and the new funding from the National Lottery Community Fund will build on those achievements.
Delivered at three professional Rugby League clubs, Warrington Wolves, Salford Red Devils and Widnes Vikings, Offload involves men learning the techniques that Rugby League clubs use to manage the mental and physical fitness of players.
Staged over 10 weeks, Offload ‘fixtures’ are delivered by former players and officials and allow men to build their own mental fitness, develop coping strategies to challenge difficult situations and learn how to recognise when people close to them might need their support.
Chris Rostron, the Head of RL Cares, said: “This is terrific news, both for the charity and for men across the North West who now have the opportunity to engage with our hugely successful Offload programme.
“Some of the feedback we have received from many of the men involved in Offload over the last two years has been little short of remarkable: Offload is not only changing lives for the better, it’s saving them as well.
“Good mental health is really important for all of us but for men, in particular, it can be difficult to seek help or advice when things go wrong.
“Offload breaks down those barriers and empowers participants to take care of their own mental wellbeing and empowers them with the tools they need to reach out to others.
“I would like to thank the three club foundations for the commitment they have shown to making Offload such an overwhelming success.”
An independent evaluation of Offload has been conducted by researchers at Edge Hill University and reveals that participation brought about increased confidence and self-esteem, improved social and emotional connections, reduced substance abuse, an increase in physical activity and enhanced working and personal relationships.
The evaluation also revealed that after taking part in Offload:
* 78 per cent of men are more aware of how to look after their health and wellbeing;
* 63 per cent are keen to make a change to improve their education, training or employment;
* 74 per cent are more able to cope with everyday lie;
* 66 per cent have a better relationship with their family
* 73 per cent feel more able to manage setbacks and challenging situations.
The Edge Hill research team was led by Professor Andy Smith, who said: “We were delighted to undertake research which will positively impact on the mental health of men from some of the most disadvantaged communities in North West England.
“We worked with the clubs and delivery staff from State of Mind Sport to design ways of effectively engaging men taking part in Offload, and to allow them to develop positive ways of coping with the mental health challenges they experience.
“How many men revealed to us that the programme has literally saved their life is quite humbling and is testimony to the hard work of everyone involved.”
One participant said: “I can honestly say Offload saved my life. That night that I went to Offload for the very first time, I was planning to do it [attempt to take my own life] again, so I can’t sing its praises enough to be honest. I wouldn’t be here without it.”
Another Offload squad member said: “I used to just turn to drugs and alcohol. That’s what I used to do every weekend, most nights, but now I don’t. Every time I feel down, I do something else that keeps me going, like exercise.”
Developed and delivered with the help of State of Mind and other agencies, Offload fixtures are free to attend and open to all men aged 18 and over.
For more information on Offload at Warrington, Salford and Widnes please click here