WHEN a player from Lismore Rugby Club in Edinburgh suffered a serious spinal injury which left him paralysed in 1999, the club and wider rugby community rallied round in support – and after a highly successful fund-raising campaign, the decision was made to set up a formal charity (which was renamed Hearts + Balls in 2003) to support other players impacted by serious injury or illness.
Over the past 24 years, Hearts + Balls has donated in the region of £700,000 to rugby players and their families, and the charity has played a valuable role through advice and advocacy in identifying and applying for further funds from other sources.
Hearts + Balls carries out its mission statement of ‘helping rugby help its own’ whilst celebrating the sport and promoting the game’s positive impact on society.
To that end, the charity linked up with Scottish Rugby great Iwan Tukalo and television personality Dougie Donnelly earlier this year to organise a reunion dinner for players and coaches of the 1984 and 1990 Grand Slam winning teams.
To mark the occasion, Loch Lomond Whiskies, as primary sponsors for the dinner, created two limited edition Hearts + Balls single malts – a 10-year-old and an 18-year-old – with every bottle purchased earning a donation to the charity.
These bottles are now available to purchase via the Hearts + Balls website – click HERE – as the ideal Christmas gift for any family member or friend who enjoys whisky and/or rugby … with every purchase contributing to a great cause. But time is running out, so get you order in today!
For a small extra cost, it is possible to get a personalised ‘engraving’ on the label of the bottle to ensure that this really is a special gift.
“The Grand Slam dinner was a unique event which enabled the players and coaches of two of the greatest Scottish Rugby teams to have a reunion, with over 400 paying guests joining them in a night of rugby nostalgia hosted by Dougie Donnelly and conceived by Iwan Tukalo,” said Willie Bell, a Trustee of the Board. “Our primary sponsor Loch Lomond Whiskies were superb in their support of the event. Due to the generosity of all guests and sponsors, a five figure sum was raised for our charity.”
The Hearts + Balls MB rugby team (an SRU registered club affiliated to the charity) are also busy at the moment organising two festive matches to be played indoors at Oriam Sports Centre (Heriot Watt University) in West Edinburgh on the afternoon of 30th December between 12noon and 4pm. The matches are a 15-aside ‘Hearts + Balls MB Men’ versus an ‘East Lothian Select’ and a 10-aside ‘Hearts + Balls MB Women’ versus a ‘Rugby People Select’, with all four teams featuring leading Scottish club players.
Post-match drinks and food is planned at a venue to be confirmed so that players and spectators can to catch up, share some festive cheer and watch that evening’s 1872 Cup clash between Edinburgh and Glasgow Warriors at Murrayfield.
There will be no entry fee at Oriam, but anyone attending will be encouraged to make a small cash/card donation on the door for The Hearts and Balls Charitable Trust, Registered in Scotland No. SC240234, Charity No. SC0033927.
Hearts + Balls offers assistance, both immediate and long-term, to those who have been impacted by catastrophic injury, which can include property conversions, equipment supply, travel costs, respite care, legal costs and counselling.