Cooke Mini Rugby Club Wins SONI and Ulster Rugby’s ‘Real Rugby Heroes – Game Changers’ Award

        Belfast Club Triumphs in Keeping the Kids Involved Category

Belfast club, Cooke Mini Rugby Club has won the Keeping the Kids Involved Award for SONI (Electricity System Operator for Northern Ireland) and Ulster Rugby’s Real Rugby Heroes – Game Changers’ bursary fund.

The £1,000 award rewards the efforts of the club and its volunteers who have embodied the spirit of community rugby by keeping kids and families connected to the game throughout the pandemic.

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.

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.

A total fund of £3,000 was available; tiered in three bursary levels of £1,000 each for three categories including a Community Club Award, a Keeping the Kids Involved Award and a Health and Wellbeing Award.

Norman McKenzie, Club Treasurer at Cooke Mini Rugby Club said:We are delighted to have won this award and would like to thank SONI and Ulster Rugby for these much-needed funds. After a difficult year, this bursary will help us to facilitate a return to rugby in a safe environment.

“We also hope to use these funds to purchase new equipment and to allow each of our volunteers to complete at least one accredited Children’s Rugby Coaching Course.”

Alan Campbell, Managing Director of SONI, said: “We’ve had a tremendous response to our ‘Real Rugby Heroes – Game Changers’ bursary programme. Cooke Mini Rugby Club have managed to keep young players in the Belfast connected to the game and each other during a very difficult time and we are delighted to present them with this award.”

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: “This year’s ‘Real Rugby Heroes – Game Changers’ bursary programme has been a triumph, with some very worthy winners. Cooke Mini Rugby Club have made an incredible impact on their community throughout lockdown.  The importance of having kept young players and their families engaged during the pandemic cannot be overemphasized and we are proud to present them with the Keeping the Kids Involved bursary award.”

SONI is responsible for the safe, secure, and reliable supply of electricity into the heart of communities across Northern Ireland. Currently, SONI is developing a greener energy system which will enable the grid to handle 95% of renewable energy at any one time.

For more information on SONI visit: www.soni.ltd.uk or follow on twitter: @soni_ltd and Facebook: @SONIElectricityNI  

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