Saracens get things moving

The Saracens Foundation is the charitable arm of the professional rugby union club, based in north Hendon in LB Barnet and therefore the closest Premiership rugby club to Wembley Stadium.

The Foundation is active across north London and Hertfordshire, promoting healthy lifestyles and encouraging people of all ages and abilities to get fit and active.  Much of their work supports younger disabled people to take part in sport – but in doing so, they learn a whole range of life skills that might lead them towards a more independent life.

WNST was a very early funder of this work back in 2013, supporting a sports skills project for young people with high levels of autism, as part of our grants programme funding sports opportunities for disabled Londoners.  The aim of that scheme was to support activities where the learning could be used to expand or spread provision (although we were not proscriptive as to how this might be achieved).  That original funding was extended twice, part of which Saracens used to establish an inclusive running club, based on demand from some of the club attendees.

A valuable offshoot of the skills project has been a “respite hour” for the parents and carers of participants to sit and socialize together, whilst their sons and daughters are at the project downstairs.  This has become a place to talk, share and relax.  Parents have even been known to come to the session when their child is unable to do so – it’s such an important part of their routine as well.

In the intervening years, Saracens have truly taken the lessons from that first project (which is still running each week) and expanded provision in many new directions.  These include a dance club, rugby sessions for higher functioning autistic young people and fitness sessions for older people.

WNST re-engaged with the Saracens Foundation at the start of lockdown, providing funding, in partnership with City Bridge Trust, as part of the London Community Response Fund, to help the organisation move all of their services online.  Staff across the organisation were engaged in making videos at home, so that participants across all Foundation projects could stay fit, healthy and, importantly, connected with their friends.  The films were viewed thousands of time and provided a lifeline for so many people throughout the pandemic.

However, as at so many other organisations we have spoken to, returning to “in person” delivery, whilst the over-riding ambition, has been difficult for many participants, who are vulnerable to infection and have been so additionally careful with their health throughout the pandemic.  Many have though now returned to the weekly classes and are really benefitting from the renewed social contact.

The Foundation also has new plans for yet further expansion of its services for disabled people, as ever based on researched need within their local area.  We wish them well.

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