One of Caerau Ely’s ‘unsung heroes’ were celebrated at the 2021/22 Cardiff Rugby End of Season Awards on Sunday evening.
Johanna Lovell has been at the heart of the club’s special efforts to create an environment where they offer the next generation a first chance - rather than a second chance - in one of Wales’ most deprived areas.
She was the recipient of this year’s Club Contribution award, in association with our hosts Depot, which paid tribute to her commitment and dedication to provide a safe and trusting environment for more than 180 children, with Caerau Ely continuing to grow from strength-to-strength.
Lovell has devoted every spare hour to the club, taking up roles as safeguarding officer, team manager, providing food and water for everyone on top of her duties as a mother.
Reacting to receiving the award, Lovell said: “It means a lot because there are a lot of deserving people out there who have worked throughout the pandemic, raised families and got bereavements.
“It’s all about helping families and making sure children feel like they’ve got a place in the world.
“My daughter was bullied but rugby gave her a different outlook in life. Now she’s 20, in university and smashing life. I just want that for other children, it’s what keeps you going.
“It’s a very deprived area. The rugby club itself was founded 50 years ago, but the mini and junior section is only four years old.
“It was started on the back of the fact that my daughter used to travel to Pencoed to play rugby, and that had to stop. We needed something that was nearer and accessible.
“Sports isn’t for the privileged, it’s for everyone. We had to do something about it.
“We’ve set up boots bank, which means for those that can’t afford boots they can come to us.
“We’ve made sure there are no barriers in rugby in our area. This is grassroots rugby, it’s about opportunities for all, not just being the best.
“It’s a place where we can teach teamwork and discipline and make friends for life.”
The Cardiff Rugby Community Foundation had two further awards to recognise the contributions made within our community, both on and off the field.
Mike Baker was handed the School Contribution award, sponsored by Ted Hopkins, for the difference he's made at Pencoedtre High School, while Gareth Davies was recognised for his Outstanding Contribution to the Community due to his work in setting up the Cardiff Rugby VI team.
Despite the many challenges presented by the pandemic, the Cardiff Rugby VI team has continued to grow and were nominated for a national award with the RNIB earlier this year.
Upon receiving the award, Davies said: "It’s a really proud moment to be recognised by a world famous rugby club for the work that has gone in over the last four or five years.
"The VI team has just gone from strength to strength but more importantly people are becoming aware of people who live with sight loss, the challenges we have but also the opportunities we have.
"It’s not just about playing rugby, it’s about spreading the word that people with sight loss can do anything.
"It’s been brilliant for us from a social aspect, and it says a lot about the team that we stuck together throughout lockdown and the pandemic.
"To be able to be back out there playing, and hosting a couple of festivals, is wonderful."