When Old Leamingtonians Rugby club holds its eighth Rugby4Heroes event this month it will mark another chapter in a living legacy of support in honour of Warwickshire servicemen and their families.
The organisers of the event, which takes place at the rugby club in Bericote Road from May 13 to 15, are expecting it to be the biggest yet and are expecting its current fundraising figure of £73,000 raised to date to get another significant boost.
The cash is split between Help for Heroes, The Royal British Legion, ABF The Soldiers’ Charity and 353 which all help members service men and women and their families whom have been affected by war and armed conflict.
As ever, the event will centre around various different rugby tournaments for children and adults but this year there will be the addition of an Elite Rugby 7s competition which is set to be one of the largest events of its type in the West Midlands.
Event organizer Gaz Nash said, “We’re all set for rugby fever with our best festival ever.
“With the Twickenham 7s in London following our event and rugby sevens at the Olympics for the first time, the game is going to be sweeping the nation. We’ve packed so much into our festival this year that there really will be something for everyone – not just the rugby fans.”
Overall, Rugby4Heroes 2016 is expected to attract around 3,000 people including 28 senior teams and more than 300 children.
Teams for the Elites 7s event will travel from multiple regions throughout the UK and will include the British Army Mighty Reds from Aldershot, Wasps from Coventry, Apache from London, the RED Wailers from Newcastle, the Bryanston Old Boys, the Akuma Rugby Agents of Warwickshire, Esher RFC from Surrey and the Barbados Flying Fish who hail from Barbados and London.
Both men’s and women’s teams for the social rugby events will come from as far as Scotland and Wales.
As well as the Rugby, spectators will be able to experience a whole host of other events including a helicopter fly-in,by the Defence Helicopter Flying School, to deliver the match balls on the Festival on the Saturday at 9.30am, and a flypast by a DC3 Dakota of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight from RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire on the Sunday at 1pm, A Royal British Legion Service of Remembrance, street food - which was a huge success last year and offered a range of food including Thai, Mex – Tex, woodfired sourdough pizza, gourmet burgers, crepes, real ale, wine tasting and gin, live music by a range of bands and artists and Family activities including mini and girls’ tag rugby, Wasps RFC interactive kids zone, bouncy slide, sumo wrestling bouncables and a British Military Fitness assault course.
Patrons of the event include Team GB Wheelchair Rugby Paralympian Mandip Sehmi, explorer, broadcaster and former Royal Marine Monty Halls, former soldier and ultra marathon runner Karl Hinett and Maj Elizabeth Murray who received treatment at Headley Court and Tedworth House and has first-hand experience of the excellent care provided, and value of funds raised by Rugby4Heroes.
*The idea to raise funds to support people in Warwickshire who have been affected by war began in 2008 when a group of rugby fans were on the train back from Twickenham following the Help for Heroes Challenge Match.
More than 20 servicemen from Warwickshire and the West Midlands were lost in Iraq and Afghanistan, with a number of these fatal casualties being rugby players.
The goal of Rugby4Heroes is to commemorate them and raise funds to provide much needed support for its chosen charities.
Founder and event organizer Mike Vallance said: “We’re all huge rugby fans and we also feel an equally large debt of gratitude to the men and women who serve our country and give up so much for us.
“A group of us thought that there has to be a way of using this amazing sport as a force for good.
“Wanting to do something to help spurred us on to create Rugby4Heroes.
“I’m amazingly proud of how it’s grown, the support we’ve received and the money we’ve raised for some truly worthwhile causes.”