Charity Pressing On With Veterans' Project After Bringing Hull Together Through Rugby

A Hull military charity is pressing on with plans to create a new veterans' village for ex-servicemen and women after the success of a...

A Hull military charity is pressing on with plans to create a new veterans' village for ex-servicemen and women after the success of a fundraising rugby match last month.

The city is usually fiercely-divided in its rugby league loyalties - but this game saw a sporting first, in rivals Hull Kingston Rovers and Hull F.C. uniting on the pitch to take on a star-studded rugby union select.

They did so for a common cause: to raise money for Hull for Heroes, which is undertaking its veterans' village project at the cost of £8 million.

In a specially-designed shirt for the occasion, they were up against a team of military men and former internationals including former England international Mike Tindall and Thinus Delport, who was capped 18 times for the Springboks.

The union side was provided by Rugby for Heroes, who are helping service personnel transition to civilian life through the sport of rugby.

They were coached by their ambassador, television presenter Nick Knowles, who met Hull for Heroes founder Paul Matson on the DIY SOS team's veterans' street in Manchester.

They soon came up with the plan for the veteran's village, on a 22-acre site of vacant land that straddles two authorities - Hull City Council and East Riding of Yorkshire Council. 

One side will embrace the natural woodland of the area, while the other will be utilised to construct a residential village, horticultural facility and visitors centre with shop and cafe. 

Paul's vision is based on the fact that he, himself, struggled when he left the Armed Forces. He told Forces Network:

"Everything's transitional. This is all about lads and lasses coming out [of] the forces and finding their feet in civilian life.

"That's what we'll be doing, helping them find their feet, showing them how to get jobs... how to fill forms in... because that's a bit of a difficult thing sometimes.

"When the door closes behind you, you do feel a little bit lost."

Wanting to help, Paul set about renovating homes for local veterans like Dan Allinson, a former sergeant in the Yorkshire Regiment, who has motor neurone disease.

In May last year, Hull for Heroes transformed his house to make it completely wheelchair-friendly. The veteran, who now works as an ambassador for the charity, said:

"It made me very proud that it was Hull people helping Hull people... [and] I felt that I wanted to give back to them."

"That was a great honour for me [being asked to become an ambassador for the charity]... and that just gave me the green light to shout even more [about the work it does]."

The hybrid rugby match in June was dedicated to Dan's wife and daughter but the sad truth is that he may not live long enough to see the veterans' village project completed.

His legacy, though, will be wrapped up in it because Hull for Heroes has not only united sports teams but councils, building contractors and communities.

Building is due to get underway early next year, with an expected completion date in 2020.

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