Main image caption: Mary Cunliffe 89 (centre left) and Lily Pointer 81 (centre right) present the referee with the ball ahead of the match on Sunday. With Claire Culshaw, Belong at Home manager (left) and Claire Taylor, Wigan Warriors community development officer (right).
Two residents of Belong Wigan and lifelong Wigan Warriors supporters, Lily Pointer, aged 81, and Mary Cunliffe, aged 89, enjoyed the day out of a lifetime when they received VIP treatment and went to watch their heroes play against Wakefield Trinity at the weekend.
Lily and Mary used to be season ticket holders and go to every Wigan Warriors game, even travelling to Wembley to see their favourite team play. Unfortunately, since the two ladies’ husbands passed away, neither of them have been to watch a match.
When Claire Culshaw, manager of Belong’s home care service, Belong at Home, discovered that the pair, who are both living with dementia, had formed a tight friendship based on their shared love of rugby league and a passion for their local team, she wanted to reignite the excitement they once experienced watching a live Wigan Warriors match. So, in keeping with Belong at Home’s commitment to going the extra mile to realise a positive outcome for its customers, Claire wrote to the club to see if she could get tickets for the two to see a match at the DW Stadium.
The response from Wigan Warriors came as a surprise. Not only did the club offer the ladies complimentary tickets to a match, the pair were invited to a ‘Rugby Memories’ reminiscence session ahead of the big day. There they would meet their favourite player, John Bateman, who presented them with their tickets.
On the day of the match, the two friends were given the honour of going out onto the pitch before the start of play to present the referee with the match ball and got to watch the game from the comfort of a corporate box with full hospitality. Afterwards, the ladies got to meet the Wigan Warriors players and were presented with personalised shirts and a rugby ball signed by all of the team.
Commenting on her experience, Lily said: “It’s been the best day of my life. We shan’t forget it. It was absolutely wonderful to meet John Bateman. I can’t thank the club enough for their kindness.”
Claire Culshaw, area manager of Belong at Home Atherton and Wigan, said: “When I found out that Lily and Mary had become friends through a shared love of Wigan Warriors and that they used to go to every game, I had to find a way of getting them back involved. Belong at Home is all about enabling our customers to achieve their aspirations and doing whatever we can to have a positive impact as well as providing bespoke home care solutions. I’m very grateful to Wigan Warriors for making the ladies’ dream come true.”