Declan Jenkinson is the co-captain of the Leeds Rhinos Learning Disability League, and he’s taking on the Leeds 10K for the third year in a row this year as part of the Run with the Rhinos team.
“It’s a great cause and great event. It doesn’t matter who you are, doesn’t matter if you’ve got a disability, it’s about getting out there and doing what’s important to you,” he says. “And with it being a different route as well, I’m always up for a challenge!”
Declan became involved with the Leeds Rhinos when he took part in the Foundation’s Try Club programme, an initiative that helps people lose weight and increase their confidence. The coach asked him to play for the Rhinos and, although he had his doubts at first, “he never gave up and he pestered me again, so I just decided to give it a go.”
Shortly after getting involved, he was asked to be the co-captain. He has held this position for the last five years, his partner Jenny coming along to cheer him on at festivals, and they both enjoy taking part in the Rhinos’ various charity events and initiatives. “I feel like I’m strongly connected to the team,” Declan says.
This year, the Run with the Rhinos team is once again raising money for the Rob Burrow Centre for Motor Neurone Disease. Rob is a former Leeds Rhinos player, who was diagnosed with the progressive illness in 2019. Helping him is very important to Declan: “He’s one of my inspirations. Even before he was diagnosed, he told me to never give up, and to keep on trying.”
Rob Burrow’s words to Declan helped to strengthen his belief that you can do anything you set your mind to. “Never give up on your dreams, always go the extra mile, you can do whatever you can to achieve your goals – I’ve done that ever since I was 13.” It was at that age when he told his mum he wanted to stop getting pocket money and start earning a living. He got his first job as a paperboy, which was a big independence milestone for him. Since then, his career has taken him to working at Leeds United, and now the NHS.
Declan is quick to credit his partner Jenny with helping him meet his personal, professional and sporting goals. She joined him for the Leeds 10K last year, and as she suffers from a condition called Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), Declan pushed her in her wheelchair. However, as they neared the finish line, she said “I want to see if I can wheel my way to victory,” so she took herself the rest of the way. Declan and Jenny recall the positive experience of all the spectators and their teammates from the Leeds Rhinos LDSL team cheering them on as they neared the finish – “everybody was really caring and kind and helpful.”
Although she can’t take part this year due to an injury, Jenny says she really hopes she can take on more Leeds 10K events in the future. In the meantime, she looks forward to cheering on Declan at the finish line on Sunday 3rd July – she’s even planning to make him a banner!
If you would like to show your support for Declan, Jenny and the rest of the Run With The Rhinos 2022 team please sponsor them at https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/RunWithTheRhinos2022.