South Belfast club shortlisted for Keeping the Kids Involved Award

South Belfast club, Cooke Mini Rugby Club has been shortlisted in the Keeping the Kids Involved Award category for SONI and Ulster Rugby’s Real Rugby Heroes - Game Changers’ bursary fund. 

The fund is intended to reward the efforts of clubs and volunteers throughout Ulster who have embodied the spirit of community rugby by keeping their players and the community engaged throughout the pandemic, from championing health and wellbeing to keeping kids and families connected to the game off the pitch. 

The bursary is an extension of the SONI Real Rugby Heroes initiative which has sought to reward volunteers for their invaluable contribution to the domestic game in Ulster for over five years.  

Last year SONI repurposed the programme to offer over 20 bursaries to clubs that switched their focus to supporting the community around them during the initial stages of the pandemic.

Submissions for the three categories so far have been outstanding. During lockdown, Cooke Mini Rugby Club organised several activities in line with social distancing rules to keep  children and their families engaged.

These included physical challenges and social activities, including a twelve hour relay run, which saw players complete laps of the grounds and raise money for new floodlights. The club also provided each player with a rugby ball so that they could practice skills at home. Players were also encouraged to make videos demonstrating their skills to share with their teams.

Alan Campbell, Managing Director of SONI, said: “We’ve been inundated with worthy submissions for our Real Rugby Heroes - Game Changers bursary programme.

“This is a real testament to the positive impact that Ulster Rugby’s clubs have been making in the community during these most challenging of times, and we are very much looking forward to seeing who the public will select as finalists.”

The much-needed funds are intended to support clubs with the anticipated expenses of a post-pandemic return to activity. 

Barry Willis, Rugby Operations Manager at Ulster Rugby said: "We have had a tremendous response to the Real Rugby Heroes - Game Changers bursary programme.

"From delivering food parcels, to arranging Zoom workouts, our clubs have been actively supporting their communities and keeping people across Northern Ireland connected during the pandemic. We’re excited to see which of the clubs shortlisted will be chosen as finalists.”