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Whole club comes together to make dream come true

Jonathan Hobbs

Jonathan Hobbs with his partner Cara and children Ellis (13), Alfie (8), Jenson (5) and Eira, almost 1, at Pontyclun RFC alongside friend and club first aid coordinator Helen Parsons

Watching your children play mini rugby on a Sunday is something most parents would be forgiven for taking for granted but due to accessibility issues, this is not a possibility for Pontyclun’s Jonathan Hobbs.

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Former Badgers full-back Hobbs suffered a life-changing injury 14 years ago while on holiday and is now confined to a wheelchair.

Unfortunately, the chair is not suitable for rugby pitches so the club has come up with a lockdown initiative to raise funds for an off-road wheelchair so that Jon can watch his sons from a much closer distance.
And more than 80 Pontyclun players, coaches and volunteers have embarked on walking, jogging or running at least 2 500 miles between them in February to raise the £10 000 needed to make Jon’s dream come true.

Jonathan, who has two sons Alfie (8) and Jenson (5) involved in the club’s minis section, was initially surprised by the initiative but grateful for the support shown by the club.

He said, “I am completely overwhelmed and shocked as I knew absolutely nothing about it beforehand. It’s still sinking in and to be honest I didn’t think people understood how much of an issue this can be for me and my family at times. I’ve been really taken aback by the way the challenge has really taken off. Even Alfie’s under 9s team mates have started to clock up the miles with their families. Pontyclun is a fantastic club, they rallied around me at the time of the accident and they’ve done it again now – even some of the other clubs in the area have donated.

“I’ve been dreaming about this wheelchair for about five years but lockdown has made me realise just how much I need it – my current wheelchair can only be used on very flat ground and there aren’t many truly accessible places in my local area, I can’t even negotiate drop-down kerbs.

“People probably wonder why I even go to watch the boys train and play rugby if I’m just going to sit in the car but the truth is the ground is usually too soft for my wheelchair – I would literally get stuck most of the year. I have to sit hundreds of metres away from the pitch and when you’re watching children under 9 this isn’t an easy task, even if they have luminous boots!

“I gained so much from rugby and I will always be as involved as possible in my children’s activities, but it would be so much better to watch their progress for myself – rather than taking Alfie’s word that he’s had a good game – which is what he always tells me!”

Hobbs, who also has an older son, 13-year old Ellis and one year old daughter Eira with partner Cara added, “Having this chair would be life-changing for the whole family and being able to watch my sons enjoy playing rugby, when we are allowed, would mean so much to us all.”

Pontyclun youth coach Keith Ruggles said, “Jonathan played for us from minis through to youth and senior rugby and we are only too keen to help out. Many of our senior players are taking part, along with youth players, plus coaches, former players, first aiders, volunteers and now junior players too. Some are in their 60s, I’m recovering from a hip operation, but the challenge is also helping us all to get out and stay active while staying connected as a club.”

Club first-aid coordinator Helen Parsons, who has set up the fundraising page said, “We were looking for a challenge to get us all active as a club while raising some money and we agreed that Jon would be the best recipient. Having only started a week ago, we’ve already raised £7 500 so we are set to smash are targets, both in terms of miles and pounds which is fantastic. Not only is it helping to transform Jon’s life but it’s helping everyone’s physical and mental well-being, by getting everyone out and exercising, either on their own or with their families.

“If we manage to raise enough for the off-road wheelchair we are keen to keep going for a mental health charity, a cause close to many people’s hearts at the moment.”

 

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