From a children’s party at Sea World, serving meals for Youth Off the Streets and cooking dinner for Ronald McDonald House visitors, to ‘Secret Santa’ voucher giveaways and paying bills for unsuspecting shoppers, NRL stars have spread Christmas cheer across the country and in New Zealand as part of a game-wide initiative.
For the past two weeks, some of the game’s biggest names have performed ‘random acts of kindness’ to help celebrate the festive season with people of all ages at shopping centres, cafes, service stations, hospitals and a variety of other locations in regional and local communities from Bathurst, Cootamundra and Casino in NSW, to Gympie and Townsville in QLD and Manukau in Auckland.
Retired Eels captain Nathan Hindmarsh kicked off the Christmas campaign in Bathurst, popping up in a Santa hat at local store aisles and check-outs offering vouchers or to pay for bills, lay-bys, groceries and other items, as well as visiting children in Bathurst Hospital.
“It was an amazing experience and one of the most rewarding and worthwhile initiatives I have been involved with,” Hindmarsh said.
“People were surprised and genuinely very appreciative and it felt great knowing these random acts would make a small difference to people’s lives.”
The joint One Community/ NRL Clubs initiative wrapped up yesterday with the Storm’s ‘Secret Santa’ visit to the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne; and an excursion to attractions at Darling Harbour with Panthers players for 32 students from the Panthers on the Prowl learning centre, dedicated to helping kids disengaged at school.
NRL Clubs conducted a wide range of Christmas visits and events for special fans and charities, including:
- Catered lunch with Lifestart, Save Our Sons, and Children’s Cancer Institute of Australia, which featured face painters, Santa Mascot, and gift-giving (Roosters)
- Christmas lunch at Big Blast Play Centre at Brookvale for 25 children with Diabetes (Sea Eagles); players also attended Christmas parties at Royal Far West Manly, Stewart House at Nth Curl Curl and Bear Cottage at Manly
- Serving Christmas dinner to young people in Father Chris Riley’s Youth Off the Streets Centre (Wests Tigers)
- Christmas party with Youth Off the Streets, Bankstown (Bulldogs)
Children’s ward at Canterbury Hospital and Bankstown Hospital, as well as Sydney Children’s Hospital – gift-giving (Bulldogs)
- Salvation Army, Campsie and Ronald McDonald House, Westmead – hamper donations (Bulldogs)
- Cooking dinner for families at Ronald McDonald House and visiting Canberra Hospital paediatrics wing (Raiders)
- Afternoon tea and hampers for those supported by St Vincent de Paul (Sharks)
- Wollongong Hospital visit and donation (Dragons)
- Christmas party for more than 200 children and their families at Redfern Community Centre (Rabbitohs)
- Christmas party for Kidz First Children’s Hospital long-term outpatient families (Warriors)
- Members Christmas party at Townsville RSL Stadium (Cowboys)
- Christmas party for a selected group of children and their families at Dolphin Cove, Sea World (Titans).
In addition, Clubs also conducted ‘Secret Santa’ activity at a variety of locations, including:
- The Children’s Hospital at Westmead – gift giving (Eels)
- Townsville Hospital/ Foundation – gift giving, donations (Cowboys)
- Mater Children’s Hospital, Brisbane – paying for parking for Hospital visitors (Broncos)
- Shopping Centre visits – paying for bills, Santa photos, groceries, etc and voucher and hamper giveaways (Dragons, Bulldogs, Knights, Warriors, One Community Ambassadors)
- Tropic Caltex, Townsville – paying for petrol and washing cars (Cowboys)
- Townsville Community Learning Centre – donation for pool heating project (Cowboys)
- Queensland Country Credit Union – bill paying and donations (Cowboys).
These activities have been brought together in the NRL’s Christmas card which can be viewed