03 Jul 2017

Rugby World Cup champion Jason Leonard completed intimidating Icelandic trek

England Rugby World Cup 2003 winner Jason Leonard and a group of tough teammates

Imagine scaling sheer walls of bitterly cold ice, then conquering the immense summit of an active volcano. Well this was all part of an incredible fundraising challenge in Iceland taken on by England Rugby World Cup 2003 winner Jason Leonard and a group of tough teammates earlier this spring.

For four gruelling days between Friday 31st March and Monday 3rd April 2017 Jason and his team took on the ultimate Icelandic challenge, reaching the top of a towering glacier between the ice caps of the country’s south coast, followed by climbing the active Henglill Volcano, and hiking to the spectacular Reyjadular Valley.

“We're all rugby players and the tougher it gets, the more vigorous the banter” explains Jason, who says that although the crew had the best intentions when it came to their preparation, in the end they relied on their regular rugby routine and team bonding: “We intended to meet and train hard in a pressure chamber to get used to trekking at altitude, but we met at the pub and didn't get any further.”

Nevertheless, beneath the bravado, the physical exertion, and the fun, is a serious purpose. Jason and his team are currently fundraising via MyDonate for the ATLAS foundation, a charity of deep personal significance having been founded by Jason, and supported from the start by all the trekkers in Iceland. The ATLAS Foundation funds and maintains rugby projects around the world that use the power of this sport to improve people’s lives and opportunities. “Some of us came from pretty tough backgrounds and rugby gave us huge life opportunities” says Jason, “We raise money to fund projects around the world that help the poorest people on earth. Schools, sports facilities, teachers and coaches mostly.”

Despite Jason’s humility, his devotion to the challenge clearly comes from a deep rooted conviction that athletes should champion projects that relieve human suffering. “While we never feel special ourselves, we know that we are high profile role models, and can influence and educate people about the impact their contribution can have on the lives of some seriously disadvantaged kids” Jason says. “We also connect with people and understand the power of the rugby family, we bring them together so that we can have a greater impact as a team than we can have alone.”

The team has already raised a staggering £46,560 on MyDonate alone for the ATLAS Foundation (contributing to a total of almost £100k with extra donations made through corporate giving schemes).

With another fundraising platform, the team would have had to raise an additional £2.5k to cover a 5% commission. With MyDonate, which charges 0% commission on donations, all the £50K raised can go to the ATLAS Foundation. “We always choose to use MyDonate precisely because there is no commission or added fees. The funds raised get through to our work” says Jason, “It's a great platform. It's been a quick, simple, transparent way to create funds for events and for projects. It has certainly helped us grow rapidly.”

Jason has just announced his next challenge for the ATLAS Foundation, a 4x4 drive across Africa, delivering kit, boots and balls to the kids in the foundation’s projects.

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