When Tigers came for tea at Rainbows

Leicester Tigers forwards sprang into action in support of youngsters with life-limiting conditions and their families during a visit to Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People.

This particular fixture involved a tour of the centre’s specialist facilities – the only one of its kind across the East Midlands – and an invitation for tea extended by the charity’s Young Adults Group, where players chatted to families, staff members and signed autographs.

They also met life-long Tigers fan Jake Pearson (24), from Burbage, (pictured) who has been supported by the Loughborough-based charity since he was a small boy.

And the smile from Jake said it all as he met Tigers stars Sione Kalamafoni, George McGuigan, Valentino Mapapalangi and Michele Rizzo. 

Jake’s mum, Sue, said: “To see Jake smiling was absolutely wonderful. He was so happy to meet his heroes. And they were lovely; real gentle giants. I am so grateful to them.”

The players were taking a break from their training schedule and following a series of wins against Worcester, Saracens and Harlequins.

Tigers prop and Italian international, Michele Rizzo, commented: “I think it is very important to stay close to people and especially those less lucky than us – and those who are Tigers fans who can’t come to see us. We want to bring them as close to the club as we can.

“We felt very honoured to share part of our lives with their lives. I have two young boys myself and I am glad to see the wonderful work here supporting children, young people and their families. It is therefore a privilege to be here.”

The players’ visit was supported by Holland & Barrett, the national health and wellbeing retailer and main partner of Leicester Tigers.

Julie Macauley, Rainbows Family Liaison, said: “For many of our youngsters and their families meeting four Tigers was a dream come true. But to actually see how engaged and caring the players were was absolutely magical – and we can’t thank them enough. It was a magical afternoon.”

She said hearts were further melted when Sione Kalamafoni met a young lady in the Rainbows multi-sensory room not able to communicate with him – and he spontaneously took off his sweatshirt and presented it to her to keep as a momento.

“Communication took place beautifully. The gesture was truly moving,” Julie added.