Who are we?
The Old Leamingtonians RFC Rugby for Heroes Festival is an annual Charity Rugby and Music Festival set up in 2009 to raise funds for a number of major Armed Forces charities and a local not for profit cause, 353. Since the first festival was held, the event has gone from strength to strength with over £78,000 raised so far for Help for Heroes and many other good causes supporting our servicemen and women, and their families. We have also added additional fundraising event to our calendar, and in 2012 held our first ever Rugby for Heroes Charity Ball.
OLRFC Rugby for Heroes is not a charity in its own right. At its heart is an energetic weekend fundraiser and celebration of rugby, music, our Armed Forces and those men and women of the West Midlands who have fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan (and other conflicts). All profits generated from the Festival and other supporting events are donated to the registered charities supported. It is organised and run by Old Leamingtonians RFC, a community rugby club founded in 1931.
Why do we do this?
The first Festival was held following the loss of Stratford Paratrooper, Private Joe Whittaker, who was killed in action in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, on 24th June 2008. Joe was a very accomplished sportsman and was a member of a number of sporting clubs in Stratford upon Avon, alongside his service in the Parachute Regiment’s 4th Battalion, a Territorial Army unit. It prompted us to ask the question about what we, as a sporting community club, could do to support our Armed Forces and raise funds in support of the wounded soldiers returning in increasing numbers, as well as bereaved families.
The Festival and its efforts to drive increased fundraising levels was given extra impetus following the increasing casualty numbers and, on Feb 9th 2011, the loss of Claverdon Paratrooper, Private Conrad Lewis. Conrad was killed in action alongside his comrade Private Lewis Hendry in what was described as one of the most ‘under fire’ patrol bases in Helmand. Conrad earned a Mention in Despatches for his service and for his teamwork and support for his comrades.
The Festival and supporting events are organised by a dedicated team of volunteers , who all have full time careers, and who come from a wide variety of backgrounds and disciplines. Some of the team have served ‘Queen and Country’ whilst many of the other volunteers have diverse business backgrounds which are put to good use in organising these events. Old Leamingtonians RFC has provided outstanding support and its club members have vigorously backed the Festival by volunteering, playing rugby and manning the Festival stalls and catering spots over the weekend.
The Festival not only raises much needed funds for Armed Forces charities, but also supports other local voluntary organisations to raise their profile. The Festival purchases all of its food and drink supplies and marketing activity with independent businesses locally and makes an important contribution to the local economy.