Our Donnington Wood store's community champion June Walker wanted to make Christmas extra special for members of the Shropshire Rugby Rebels team after the pandemic meant they couldn't train together all the time – so she secured funding from Asda’s charity, the Asda Foundation, and arranged for World Cup-winning England rugby star Jason Robinson to come along and take a training session and then hand out presents of new training kit too!
The 40-strong Rebels are a group of children and young adults with a disability who play tag rugby in Telford each week, but due to the pandemic they've not been able to see each other or play the sport they love, so June wanted to surprise them with something magical!
June, who's got a close relationship with the group, said: "It was such a lovely night. They did their normal training for a while and I went over and joined in a game of tag with them – they couldn't half run, bless 'em!
"And then Jason came along and did some of the training with them and he was really great. He was very, very good with the kids and they interacted with him really well. The kids loved it. He also brought along his medal from the World Cup and the kids were like 'wow'. The parents were a bit in awe as well.
"After the training session Jason got all the kids in a semi-circle with their backs to their parents and when that was happening they put a screen in place and then he said that he wasn't their only surprise and showed them the bags full of new kit. It was so lovely to see their reaction; the kids were so chuffed.
"It was so nice to deliver a surprise to a group that I know and that I've worked with. When they turned up for training they were a mixed bunch with all different types of training gear, but now they've got the bobble hats, hoodies and rain jackets which are all embroidered with the Asda logo on. They will really look the business!
"I've been working with them for the past 18 months but I've known members of the group for about five or six years through other groups It's just lovely to see the friendships through the ages, as you have a five year old with a 25-year-old; with a disability, there is no age barrier."
Jason said he delighted to join the team for their training session, and to see how much the players were all enjoying themselves.
He said: “It was so nice to go along and surprise the Shropshire Rugby Rebels group with a training session and just to have a bit of fun with them.
"I was also able to present all the team with some warm winter kit provided by Asda – it was just priceless seeing their faces. They’re all very passionate rugby fans and it was clear that they had missed playing together over the last year. It was really nice seeing the smiles on their faces, just having fun – that’s what it’s about."
Val Edgley, joint secretary of the Shropshire Rugby Rebels, said everyone from the team were thrilled by the surprise.
She said: "We can't thank June and Asda enough, we really can't. What they've done has been amazing.
"The kids really, really enjoyed the training with Jason, and they each had a photo taken with him and his medal but the icing on the cake was when they brought out the hoodies and jackets and everything, it was fantastic. Where we train in winter is really cold, so this new kit is brilliant, wonderful. The team will be able to wear them when they go to tournaments too.
"It was tough for the group through the pandemic because we had to stop for a while, but it's great to be back and it's great to get so much support from Asda."