On Friday, September 7 he has the chance to take a close look at the England Rugby Training Centre at Pennyhill Park in Bagshot before enjoying a behind the scenes tour at Twickenham Stadium, followed by a special black tie reception and dinner when the winners of the prestigious national awards will be announced.
(Original article appeared on www.englandrugby.com on 12 June 2018)
• 47-year-old Stan Garner volunteers at Helsby RUFC
• Garner has been recognised as part of the Mitsubishi Motors Volunteer Recognition Programme
• Thank you to our 100,000+ volunteers
There is a reason Stan Garner does so much for Helsby RUFC. For the 47-year-old, Helsby and its members are much more than just a club having pulled him through the most difficult period of his life. Garner now devotes most of his week to helping the club, responsible for everything from pitch maintenance to fixtures and coaching – all as a volunteer.
‘I don’t know what kept me coming back’.
Garner was 20 when his brother, short of players for the club’s second fifteen, dragged Stan out of bed to come and play for the first time. “I didn’t have any experience of rugby apart from in high school when I was 11 so I didn’t know what I was doing that day,” says Garner. “It was a miserable afternoon. It was freezing and the rain was lashing down. I barely touched the ball and must have made about two half-hearted tackle attempts. “So when people ask me why I kept coming back after that I don’t really know what to say, for some reason I loved it and I had to come back.”
For the next eight years Garner became a regular at Helsby, working his way up to the first team where he played at full back. He stepped away from the club in his late twenties, got married and had two children with 10 years passing before he returned after his family were rocked by a tragedy. ‘Rugby gave me purpose. I was 37 when my wife passed away," says Garner. "My kids were only four and five at that point and I didn’t know what to do with myself. It got pretty bad and I was really struggling. One day I was sitting around the house alone and thought to myself, ‘I can’t do this anymore’ and I made myself go back down to the club. When I got there it was like I had never left. I felt welcomed. I hadn’t seen people there in so long but you don’t lose your friends in rugby, they are always there for you and I needed them then."
Garner got his boots back on and continues to play for the first team every week having moved up from full back to second row. Both his children also took up the sport, and Garner devoted as much free time as he could to giving back to the club that had been there when he needed it most. “Rugby saved me twice. I wasn't doing anything with my life when my brother dragged me along at the age of 20 and 17 years later it gave me and my family a purpose."
As a volunteer Garner has taken on nearly every possible role including secretary, treasurer, fixtures secretary, groundsman, coach, kit washer and even barman. “I do it all because this club is my family. The volunteers we have at Helsby are amazing and they keep clubs like ours ticking along. I don’t do it for recognition, I do it because I couldn’t not do it.”
Garner is one of a number of volunteers across the country nominated as part of the Mitsubishi Motors Volunteer Recognition Programme. Find out more about the programme here.