Celebrating a fantastic 2019 for Leeds Rhinos Foundation

Leeds Rhinos Foundation celebrated another hugely successful year in 2019, working with thousands of people from across Leeds and the local region through the wide variety of projects we deliver in the community.

There has been substantial growth across all five pillars of the Foundation’s work, not only launching ground-breaking new projects but also taking some of the charity’s most established and successful initiatives to even greater levels.

Of course, none of this would be possible without the outstanding support that has been once again received from the club’s key partners and supporters throughout the past 12 months, and thanks to their backing it was also a year in which Leeds Rhinos Foundation was able to raise record-breaking amounts and support more people in the local community than ever before.

For example, back in July more than 167 runners- comprised of staff, supporters, commercial partners and former players- helped us raise over £11,000 for Leeds Rhinos Foundation by taking part in the Leeds 10k, our largest Run with the Rhinos team ever. Then in October, Head of Partnerships and Development Dan Busfield went solo as he embarked on the challenge-of-a-lifetime and completed an incredible seven-day climb of Mount Kilimanjaro which raised a further £6,700 for Leeds Rhinos Foundation.

The Rugby League Development Plan, sponsored by Mears, which aims to improve standards and increase participation in the sport has had some major achievements this year, with record numbers taking part in the annual Rhinos Challenge event at Butlins Skegness. The two-day event saw more than 1,700 junior players from 169 community rugby league teams competed in 616 matches across nine age-groups, with such huge demand for next year’s Rhinos Challenge that we announced the launch of a second festival for the first time ever!

Leeds Rhinos Foundation also became official partners of the England Talent Pathway, launching our first ever ETP 14+ squad in December following two highly successful open-access Player Development Days at Leeds Rugby Academy.

Participation in Women’s Rugby League has continued to increase with more girls taking part in High School and community club rugby than ever before. The strength of the Women’s game in Leeds was highlighted by Corpus Christi’s victory in the Year 8 Champion Schools Final, as well as the addition of 22 girls to our Outdoor Adventure programme, which took place during the October half-term holidays at Herd Farm as a reward for 60 junior players from our Ambassador clubs.

Under the banner of health, we have helped people looking to regain their fitness through their Try Club men’s health programme and their new Back Onside initiative, run in partnership with Rugby League Cares, whilst programmes such as Rhinos Active Social and the In Touch Dementia support group have provided a vital provision for some of the city’s most vulnerable people.

Our partnership with Aspire CBS ensures the charity were able to continue the charity’s commitment to playing sports accessible for everyone, which was exemplified by the launch of the Rhinos’ first Learning Disability Rugby League team, who competed in the inaugural LD Super League. The side also enjoyed the incredible opportunity to step out on the famous Anfield pitch and emulate their heroes by playing in front of more than 30,000 rugby league fans during the 2019 Dacia Magic Weekend.

In July, Leeds Rhinos Foundation and The Yorkshire Cricket Foundation marked the official opening of the stadium’s new Emerald Stand following its £45m redevelopment by hosting a spectacular Community Engagement Day. The day began with a historic Aspire CBS Tag festival, with more than 150 people taking part in a fun and inclusive disability rugby tournament, supported by Chadwick Lawrence, before 600 primary school children from across Leeds took part in a mass participation rugby event, with skills-based activities led by staff from Leeds Rhinos Foundation and volunteers from partners Emerald Publishing.

The Onside project, delivered in HMP Hatfield and HYMOI Wetherby, has continued to be a huge success with 48 prisoners completing the course as we continue to tackle the issue of re-offending, something which helped sponsors Ardagh Glass win the coveted UK Packaging Award for ‘CSR Initiative of the Year.’

Other significant accomplishments included hosting a record-breaking Leeds Big Sleep, with approximately 240 volunteers spending a night sleeping on the terraces of Emerald Headingley Stadium to help raise £54,000 for homeless charities in Leeds. Furthermore, we celebrated the fantastic news that Leeds Rhinos Netball will officially join the Vitality Netball Superleague in 2021, and supported the Leeds Rhinos Wheelchair RL team as they won the 2019 Wheelchair Challenge Cup, with four members of the side selected to represent England Wheelchair in their historic Test series with Australia this winter.

Finally, the charity was strongly supported by players from the Leeds Rhinos First Team and Women’s Team squads, who made regular appearances at Leeds Rhinos Foundation events- including the Rhinos Challenge weekend, Holiday Fun Camps, Sky Try rugby league taster sessions and our annual festive visit to Leeds Children’s Hospital earlier this week.

If you would like to support the work of Leeds Rhinos Foundation, please email bob.bowman@leedsrhinosfoundation.org.