Exeter Chiefs players delighted Children's Hospice South West (CHSW) children and families by holding a virtual story time session.
Players Jack Maunder, Joe Simmonds and Tom O'Flaherty joined 13 families at home via video call, as well as care teams at the charity’s three children’s hospices, for a special reading of Jack’s motivational new children's book, Bounce Back Jack!
The sports stars also spent time chatting to families about their own personal experiences of times when they have overcome setbacks and shown resilience.
A highlight of the session was Joe Simmonds giving a rousing pep talk to a little boy who spoke up about struggling at football. Joe shared his own experience of not being good enough when playing for the Torquay United football academy, which led to his transition into rugby. His words inspired the young boy to tell the group and his family that he did not want to give up – a heart-warming moment for both the families and players, which resonated with the theme of resilience in Jack’s book.
Chiefs scrum-half Jack said: “Reading my book to those at Children’s Hospice South West was a humbling experience.
It was incredibly moving to hear that, after the session, parents heard their children say that they weren’t going to give up, they are going to keep trying – embracing the power of hope.
The story-telling session was organised by insurance broker Gallagher through its title partnership with Premiership Rugby. Their 'Tackling Tomorrow Today' initiative aims to tell the recent stories of six UK businesses and a charity (CHSW), and shine a spotlight on the resilience, tenacity and pioneering spirit they have shown during the COVID-19 pandemic.
While COVID-19 has been hard for everyone, the past year for children with life-limiting conditions and their families who use CHSW has been particularly challenging. The charity’s three hospices – Little Bridge House in Devon, Little Harbour in Cornwall and Charlton Farm in Somerset – have remained open during the pandemic for end-of-life and emergency care but, due to lockdown restrictions, the charity had to also quickly adapt by introducing at-home and virtual visits.
Throughout the pandemic, Gallagher’s 50-strong team in Exeter has continued to provide practical risk management advice and solutions to the hospice, supporting its longstanding client. As a corporate supporter of the charity, the Gallagher team also fundraise and volunteer at the charity’s Exeter shop.
Amanda Gallagher [no relation], CHSW Corporate Partnerships Fundraiser, said: “The support Gallagher has given us throughout the pandemic has been second to none and this was topped off by the storytelling session.
We have had to be particularly resilient during this past year and the book reading played on that theme, while really inspiring the children, and giving them the chance to meet their local rugby heroes.
"Thanks to Gallagher’s support, we are hoping that the increased exposure through our pairing with the rugby clubs will help us in our fundraising efforts.”
Ardent Chiefs fan and head of Gallagher’s 50-strong team in Exeter, Geoff Gale, commented: “As a local insurance broker, Gallagher is doing everything possible to support UK businesses and charities during these trying times. Our work with Children’s Hospice South West is an example of how we are helping organisations stay operational, by providing specialist risk management advice on how to adapt their business model so they can continue to care for families across the region. But it’s the charity’s own resilience, determination and firmness of purpose that has delivered all the difference.”
As one of the businesses selected to benefit from the ‘Tackling Tomorrow Together’ initiative, Children’s Hospice South West will be promoted on a match day at Exeter Chiefs and Bath Rugby (when COVID-19 allows), through in-stadia and programme advertising. Children and their families will also have the chance to attend a game to support Jack, Joe and Tom from the stands.
In addition to the rugby-related package, Gallagher will continue to offer specialist business advice and support to the hospice’s fundraising efforts during this period of uncertainty. The Exeter players and Children’s Hospice South West also took part in an exclusive business club event hosted by Gallagher ambassador and former England International, Ugo Monye. The business club featured over 50 South West businesses and helped to promote and celebrate Children’s Hospice South West’s 30th anniversary.