People supported by the national social charity Community Integrated Care were special guests of Widnes Vikings at their Super League victory against Huddersfield Giants this weekend. This visit also saw the charity award the club its highest honour, celebrating the outstanding backing that Widnes Vikings has given it.
The visit marked the public launch of a major long-term partnership between Community Integrated Care and Widnes Vikings. This sees the two Halton based organisations work together to promote the health, wellbeing and happiness of people supported by the charity, its colleagues and the local community at large, through an innovative programme of activities.
The club invited eleven people supported by the charity, who have learning disabilities, mental health concerns and autism, for a special VIP matchday experience. This saw the guests enjoy an accessible sports session on the pitch before kickoff, and have the important role of forming the guard of honour that welcomed players onto the pitch. They were also invited pitchside at half time, where they were warmly applauded by Vikings and Giants fans, and enjoyed a backstage tour of the Select Security Stadium, meeting players and coaches at the club.
In recognition of their pioneering partnership and the support that the charity has received from Widnes Vikings, the club was awarded ‘Friends of Community Integrated Care’ status by its Deputy Chief Executive, Cath Murray-Howard. Widnes Vikings became only the eighth organisation in the charity’s history to receive this prestigious accolade. Their partnership began with Widnes Vikings delivering reminiscence and activity sessions in Community Integrated Care’s specialist dementia care homes in 2015, and has grown to include efforts like delivering weekly sports and wellbeing sessions for colleagues of and people supported by the charity, and the creation of a free monthly dementia support group for the local community.
Community Integrated Care was founded in Widnes in 1988 and remains the biggest social care provider in Halton. The charity supports more than 5000 people across England and Scotland to lead full and independent lives. With an annual turnover of over £105m, it is one of Britain’s biggest and most successful charities.
Cath Murray-Howard, Deputy Chief Executive of Community Integrated Care, says: “Being guests of honour of Widnes Vikings was an incredible experience for the people we support. The community team, players and backroom staff all made every effort to make it an unforgettable day, and this is typical of the passion and generosity that we have always experienced from the club.”
She adds, “We believe that we have formed the most ambitious partnership between a care provider and a professional sports club, and will change lives together. We wanted to formally recognise the incredible support that we have received from Widnes Vikings by awarding them Friends of Community Integrated Care status. This honour is only awarded to our most dedicated partners and recognises outstanding support. Widnes Vikings truly deserve this status – they are a credit to their sport and their community.”
Richard Munson, Community Integrated Director at Widnes Vikings, says: “We were absolutely delighted to welcome people supported by Community Integrated Care to our recent match against Huddersfield Giants which was a key part of our partnership launch activity. It was great to see them taking part in our pre match experience and for them to form the guard of honour for the players was a real special moment. I hope they enjoyed the day as much as we did hosting them. As a club we are committed to making our partnership with Community Integrated Care one of the most innovative community schemes in the country. To receive the ‘Friends of Community Integrated Care’ status topped off an excellent day and we look forward to other areas of the partnership starting, including our ‘Chemics Cafe’ dementia project.”