Lizzie Jones says she feels humbled that her late husband Danny’s legacy lives on by making a difference in rugby league.
Danny died from an undiagnosed heart problem whilst playing for Keighley six years ago. As a result, Lizzie established the Danny Jones Defibrillator Fund following her husband’s death.
Last week, Lizzie was awarded an MBE for her services to rugby league and charity. She has helped raise almost £200,000.
Her charity work has helped change rugby league for the better. Now, all semi-professional players receive an annual cardiac screening.
On collecting her MBE from the Princess Royal at Windsor Castle, Jones told Love Rugby League: “I was just really, really overwhelmed.
“I’ve said from the beginning that the recognition is absolutely amazing but its not why I do what I do. It is just a lovely extra to top off how amazing it makes me feel that people are being served with Danny’s legacy. With the screening and defibs, he has made a big difference to rugby.
“I was very emotional, I broke down in front of Princess Royal but she was so lovely and warm. She just said ‘please don’t apologise’ and we just chatted for quite a while. One of the guards commented on how long she’d spoken to me for. Her first words were ‘oh, you’re not a rugby player!’ which was quite apparent, but it was just the most magical day. It feels like a distant memory now I’ve got home to the twins again and to real life but it was amazing.”
Lizzie Jones believes Danny would be proud
Lizzie says she likes to think that her late husband would be proud her charity work since his passing.
She said: “There’s nothing we can do about what happened to Danny now but his legacy can change the future of rugby league and it has done.
“He’s not a number, he is not just one those people who lost their life playing the sport they loved. He has changed the sport and he deserves that legacy. He is a special person and his death will never be in vain as long as I live, that’s for sure.”
Lizzie may have collected an MBE last week, but the work doesn’t stop now. She wants to keep providing sporting clubs with defibrillators and heart screenings.
She said: “For me, pushing the screening is a big thing for grassroots clubs and their coaches and staff. Generally, it is a spectator that might suffer whilst watching a game of rugby league.
“I think we’ve done screenings at Kevin Sinfield and Barrie McDermott’s team in Oldham and two or three people had to be seen straight away because of something that was found. I think if we can find the problem before we need the defibrillator then that’s the next best thing.
“The only issue with that is that it is expensive. But as a charity we fund up to half of the cost of the screening so if clubs are wanting to be screened or they can afford to be screened, then please get in touch. It’s what we are there for.
“The defibs will always be there. The money and the grants for the defibs will always be there. Even if you’ve got one but want another one for your young lads or girls who play away then we are there for that as well. We are there for everybody, but particularly for rugby league. That will always be what are there for.
“We just want to carry on what we are doing. It never ends. There is always somewhere else where we can put these machines. There is always another team that we can screen. It is there and it is available and it needs using.”
Jones, a singer who has performed at many rugby league matches, says she would appreciate people taking on more challenges for the charity.
She added: “If anyone fancies running a marathon or doing a swim for us then we’d be so grateful for the support.”
For more information on the Danny Jones Defibrillator Fund, click here.