Staff and people supported by a national social care charity, along with their friends and family, enjoyed a unique super league match day experience at Widnes Vikings’ victorious game against Catalans Dragons on Sunday.
The rugby league club invited 100 people from Community Integrated Care to the game, commemorating the one year anniversary of their award-winning partnership with the charity. Guests included residents from two local dementia care services, and several community based services for people with learning disabilities, mental health concerns and autism.
To mark the momentous occasion, the visitors were given front row seats so they could witness all the action up close, and at half time they were invited onto the pitch to have their photograph taken with first team players, including Alex Gerrard and Co-Captain Joe Mellor.
The highlight of the day came when rugby stars, Jack Buchanan and Gil Dudson, ran from the pitch after the game to meet their guests of honour. They spent time talking to everyone, signing autographs and having their photos taken with delighted Vikings fans.
John Cresswell, who lives at one of the charity’s supported living services, said: “I’ve been supporting Widnes Vikings for a really long time and loved coming to the game today. I can’t believe we got to meet the players. It’s been a superb day!”
In May 2016, the sports club and charity formed a pioneering partnership which has gone from strength to strength, receiving national acclaim by winning a prestigious award at the 3rd Sector Care Awards in London last year.
Samantha Brennan, North West Regional Director for Community Integrated Care, says: “We are extremely proud of our partnership with Widnes Vikings. Many people we support are passionate Vikings fans and this partnership has enabled them to engage with the club in a really unique way. From improving their health and wellbeing at their fitness sessions, reminiscing over their treasured Vikings memories at the dementia support group, Chemics Café, to enjoying great days out like today.
She adds, “Seeing the joy this experience has brought to the people we support has been wonderful. People with dementia remembering their favourite Vikings moments, our colleagues enjoying the atmosphere, and families cherishing a great day out together. We’d like to thank Widnes Vikings for their incredible generosity in donating these 100 tickets, as well as their dedicated efforts over the past year.”
Richard Munson, Community Integrated Director at Widnes Vikings, says: “We were delighted to welcome so many people from Community Integrated Care today and celebrate what has been an extraordinary year together. Our club prides itself on building a strong and inclusive community and our partnership with the charity is one of our greatest achievements. It’s fantastic to see other sports clubs starting up similar initiatives, having been inspired by our success. We look forward to what the next year will bring.”