Summer Bash kit highlights strength of community for Widnes

James Gordon
Widnes will wear special Summer Bash kit 2022

A special kit that Widnes will wear at the Summer Bash later this month highlights the importance of the club and its partners in the local community.

Widnes will wear the kit when they take on Barrow at Headingley on Sunday July 31, live on Premier Sports.

The Vikings and Community Integrated Care have been linked for five years, working together to improve opportunities available for residents in the town.

Community Integrated Care is one of the biggest social care providers in the country and was founded in Widnes.

It has facilitated multi-sports clubs, dementia programmes, volunteering opportunities, campaigns for Down Syndrome awareness, care home activity programmes and helped establish a Learning Disability Super League team in partnership with the Vikings.

In return, players at the rugby league club helped deliver PPE equipment to support workers during the Covid pandemic, the Vikings have donated items for fund-raising drives, and offer volunteering opportunities for the people they support.

One of those volunteers, Ian Toole, has become a popular member of the Vikings’ off-field staff, illustrating to club captain and Widnes-born Owens just how much of an impact the partnership can have on both sides.

Owens said: “Community Integrated Care have been great partners for Widnes Vikings, and we have lots of volunteers that help us, including Ian who works in the club shop.

“He’s down here on match days helping out and selling half-time tickets. He genuinely loves being around the place, and everyone in the offices loves him. He brightens our day up.

“At Widnes Vikings we’re striving to create opportunities for people to engage with the club, and in turn they help us too. Ian is probably the best example of that. You can’t help but smile when you’re around Ian, he’s so happy all of the time. The work he does is a genuine benefit to us – he’s helping the club to move forwards and better ourselves.”

Ian, 45, has also become a member of the Vikings’ Community Integrated Care Learning Disability Super League team. He said: “I have made lots of friends, and some from other teams as well. I feel good when I put the Widnes shirt on. It makes me feel happy and proud.”

Celebrating the partnership

For Owens, it is yet more proof of how fruitful the relationship between charity and professional sports club has been for both parties, as they prepare to celebrate their partnership through the Summer Bash kit.

Owens added: “The LDSL team trains before us on a Wednesday, and you see what it means to the players to be a part of Widnes Vikings. When you see them walking round the stadium on match days and all their families are cheering, you understand exactly what it means for them to be engaged with a professional sports club.

“The kit is very bright and will look really good on the day in the Community Integrated Care colours. The two organisations have worked together for years and this is another good opportunity to partner up together. Other clubs will be able to see the work that we do together and it’s a great chance to celebrate and showcase that.

“It’s a link that really benefits people’s lives, and one that benefits Widnes Vikings too – it’s a genuine partnership. Hopefully friendship between Widnes Vikings and Community Integrated Care continues for years to come.”

Community Integrated Care is a national charity that was founded in Widnes.