Rugby League club and famous friends helping NHS workers and the vulnerable
St Helens amateur club Blackbrook have been doing the extra yards to help NHS staff and the vulnerable – and are uniting the town in the process.
The club has teamed up with the Steve Prescott Foundation and local businessman Andrew Mikhail to make sure those who need it most can have food delivered to their homes.
The initiative has seen comedian Johnny Vegas and former rugby league stars Lee Briers and Tommy Martyn arriving at grateful doorsteps around St Helens. And it even earned a plug from Hollywood star and South Sydney owner Russell Crowe on Twitter yesterday (Tuesday).
Blackbrook captain Craig Lyon, 37, explained: “When covid-19 hit we wanted to see how we could help the community as a club.
“There’s a lot of vulnerable and older people in the town who wouldn’t have anybody else to help them.
“I put a message out on the lads’ Whatsapp group and something on social media with a number to call if they needed any help.”
The idea developed further when Mikhail – with the help of the Steve Prescott Foundation – turned his Eccleston Arms into a makeshift shop offering cost-price food and meals to NHS staff, key workers and the elderly and vulnerable.
They were looking to offer deliveries – and Blackbrook had a ready-made team.
Foundation secretary Martin Blondel explained: “These lads are putting their health on the line to help people stay at home and follow the guidelines.
“Some of the stories we’ve seen have been incredible – we’ve had NHS staff breaking down in floods of tears because they weren’t able to buy this produce anywhere else.
“We’re working alongside St Helens Council now to broaden it further because the supermarkets haven’t been able to cope.
“Johnny Vegas rang up and wanted to get involved and so did Tommy Martyn and Lee Briers, and we’ve even had local musician Jack Bennett going round playing to the elderly and in pharmacies to raise their spirits.”
And Blackbrook’s Lyon says all of them have joined the cause simply to help people in their local area.
He added: “The honest truth is that none of them have done it for any publicity, they’re just down to help and that’s it.
“We’ve seen lads from rival clubs and football clubs get in touch to join forces, and there’s now 45 people in the group dotted all over the town with a rota in place. Nobody has been waiting longer than an hour for a delivery.
“Personally I’ve found it so rewarding – a lot of people we’re delivering to are in 12-week isolation so we might be the first people they’ve seen for a couple of weeks.
“We’ve had family members from places like Southampton and Portsmouth get in touch and ask if we can check in on elderly relatives round here that they can’t visit.
“For me rugby league is a proper community sport and this has shown how it can bring people together for a good cause.”
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