An afternoon with bereaved children and an All Blacks legend
Caroline Topps, Marketing Manager
Thursday 13 December 2018
Bereaved children and a rugby-playing legend is an unusual pairing, and not one I expected to experience when I started at AIG Life six months ago.
Having taken up the challenge to maximise our sponsorship of New Zealand Rugby (NZR) at AIG Life, I had already managed a few activations over the summer. But, the All Blacks visit to the UK for the Autumn Internationals was a huge opportunity for us to showcase our link with the global superpower, and really stamp AIG Life’s claim on the NZR sponsorship in the UK.
There were four different events to plan and host – three of them all in one day. All with varying audiences, from Chief Execs to employees and industry experts to partners – every one of these audiences made up of VIPs. Of all the events and audiences, it was the beneficiaries of children’s bereavement charity, Winston’s Wish who were true VIPs. It was in our gift to host an unforgettable experience for the children of this charity. Children who had lost parents or siblings, who may never have access to this kind of once in a lifetime experience. I am so glad we recognised that presenting an opportunity to this group was in our power to do.
After months of planning, the cool November day had finally arrived. I felt sick. I truly wanted this to be the amazing day we had planned. Fourteen children and their carers travelled over a hundred miles to arrive at The Stoop, home of Harlequins Rugby team. They enjoyed lunch together, and the children and adults each bonded over stories of shared losses.
“Such a great day from start to finish - some of the stories that parents have shared today about how much it meant to them were absolutely amazing, and it's all thanks to you guys. Thanks for everything, it's a day I'll never forget and one I'm sure that the kids will remember forever.”
- Paul Moore, Head of Corporate Partnerships at Winston’s Wish.
After being inspired by footage of All Blacks players past and present, it was time for the children to demonstrate their love of the game in a fun-filled skills and drills session led by community coaches from Harlequins. I spoke to Lisa, mum to Christian (12) & Guy (10), before their dad died they enjoyed Rugby as a family, ‘The boys both have an emotional attachment to Rugby and play for teams, they use the sport as one way to remember their Dad.’
There was so much energy and enjoyment on the faces of the children, and when All Blacks legend Richie McCaw joined in, there were some truly awestruck faces and disbelief that former captain and most capped player in the world, had really just run on to the pitch to join in their game. It was truly wonderful to see the disbelief change to delight on faces both on and off the pitch as everyone enjoyed watching Richie and the children, and he capped off a wonderful afternoon with photos, selfies and autographs.
We later received a message from Lisa, ‘Thank you so much for inviting me and the boys to join you last Friday, we enjoyed every minute of the day. It was an unforgettable day and seeing the boys playing rugby with Richie McCaw was something I will never forget!’.
After the day we also received an emotional thank you card with thumbprints of all the children and the inscription, ‘You left your prints on our hearts and minds and now we leave ours with you’. We know it is a day the children will remember forever. But I doubt they realise the lasting impact their strength to their situations and response to the day had on me. Really, I should be the one sending the thank you card.
At AIG, we know that the death of a parent or sibling can be one of the most significant losses a child will ever face. Through our partnership with Winston’s Wish, if a policyholder dies or is diagnosed with a terminal illness, we will fund their family to receive the specialist support they need to help them rebuild their lives after the death of a loved one. Winston’s Wish offers the widest range of practical support and guidance in the UK, including online resources, publications, a national telephone helpline, professional face-to-face support and group work. All AIG Life policyholders making a life or terminal illness claim can use this service – it doesn’t matter when the policy was taken out. To find out more visit: https://www.winstonswish.org