Meningitis Now staff member Clara Wiggins

Rugby players get their kit off to fundraise for Meningitis Now

Clara Wiggins | 7th March 2020

There were plenty of balls on display when the rugby players of Old Rishworthians got their kit off for a calendar in memory of one of their team members

Naked rugby calendar fundraising for Meningitis Now

Luckily, the balls were of the oval variety and the calendar flew off the shelves – raising a brilliant £1,600 for Meningitis Now. 

The cheeky calendar was inspired by the famous Calendar Girls film depicting a group of middle-aged women posing naked to raise money for charity, according to social committee member Marianne Ingham. The Halifax-based club wanted to do something to raise money for Meningitis Now following the sad death of Lewis Hilton from the disease in 2018. You can read Lewis’s story here

“Myself and our photographer Jade Smith both had thoughts about a calendar separately,” added Marianne.

"My thought process on the theme was, “What do rugby players like doing best? Get their kit off!” and the idea was born!”

When Jade came to Marianne with a similar idea, she spoke to some of their senior players and the idea was put into reality. “We were very passionate from the off that it was to be cheeky but also tasteful and respectful to Lewis’s memory, his parents Morley and Tracy and to Meningitis Now,” she said.

“They put their trust in us to get it just right, which we feel we did!”

Felt the impact of his loss

Marianne said that although she hadn’t known Lewis personally, she had felt the impact of his loss throughout the club. She had also had a school friend who had died of meningitis aged 12, which gave her an extra reason to get involved. “Following my involvement in the calendar I now feel I do know Lewis, even though I never met him,” she said. 

“I couldn’t be prouder of the lads that took part – I’d like to say they were brave but they enjoyed it too much!”

Photographer Jade said her inspiration for getting involved was the personal and photographic challenge it presented her with. “Photographically I had no experience of putting together a calendar, let alone organise a bunch of naked men and get them to stand still for long enough to get a good shot!” she said. 

“I also cannot grasp the brutality of what happened to Lewis and the depth of pain that Morley and Tracy must still live with. Why would I not give up my time to achieve this!”

Hadn't needed much persuading

Echoing Marianne’s comment that the rugby players had possibly “enjoyed” getting their kit off just a little too much, members of the team said they hadn’t needed much persuading to take part. 

Wez Aldridge said that as well as wanting to be part of the project to support Lewis’s family he also saw it as a way to promote body confidence. “I was never confident in my figure to get up and strip off and do something like this,” he said. 

“It was great because nobody cared what your figure looked like as we were all having fun modelling for this fantastic calendar!”

Another player, Phil Kershaw, agreed with him. Phil, who has lost two friends to meningitis as well as Lewis, said: “Being a bigger chap and one not to shy away from getting the kit off, I thought it gave a good platform to show it doesn’t matter about your size or shape – anyone can get involved!

“We’ve ended up with a cracking calendar thanks to the number of lads that took part and Jade’s photography skills. 

“It’s a great way for us to remember and honour Lewis plus, for me, Gary.”

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