One of the stand-out messages of this season has come from Super League players and personalities themselves, in support of the Joining Jack charity.
The JJ salute has been common-place amongst try-scorers in televised matches this year, helping to raise awareness of the charity, set-up to help support the son of former Wigan player Andy Johnson.
Jack, aged four, suffers from muscle wasting condition Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy, and the charity has been set up to help find a cure or treatment to increase life expectancy.
The rugby league community has rallied to show support and help raise awareness of the charity, and just last week, Wigan fans showed phenomenal support in buying the club’s specially commissioned Joining Jack charity shirt.
Johnson said: “I have been overwhelmed by the support I have received from the Rugby League community. In the thirteen years I played rugby I was lucky enough to play along great players including Kris Radlinski, Jason Robinson, Andy Farrell, Gary Connolly, Phil Clarke, Sean Edwards, Brian Carney and Danny Orr. I am proud to call them my friends and when we received Jack’s diagnosis and I went to them for help they all agreed to be Ambassadors for our charity without hesitation.”
On visiting the Joining Jack website, www.joiningjack.org, the support from rugby league players, sports personalities and celebrities from further a field, is clear to see.
The likes of Sam Tomkins, Stefan Ratchford and Ryan Atkins have all been seen celebrating tries in front of the SKY camera with the JJ salute.
Johnson added: “When we came up with the idea of the JJ Salute I thought it would be fantastic if we could get as many players as possible using it as a try celebration. I can’t tell you how much it means to me and my family every time we see a player doing the JJ Salute.
“Sam Tomkins has been amazing in raising awareness for us, but it’s hard to single out just one person because so many have taken on our cause.
“Like I said, every time a player does the JJ Salute it means the world to us.
“I really think we can make a difference to DMD, there’s talk of treatments being available soon, by raising money Joiningjack want to make sure we make it sooner rather than later, we really don’t want to lose another generation to DMD. Alongside my family, this has become the most important thing in my life.”
It was October last year when Andy, and his wife Alex, found out the devastating news that their son has DMD, and they were faced with having to watch Jack slowly lose the ability to walk, the ability to hold himself upright and finally the ability to breath.
They decided that they could not allow this condition to take the life of their little boy, not without putting up a fight.
On July 24th, they were boosted by the news that Sarepta Therapeutics had been developing a treatment that had produced clinically significant results that enabled a decreate in the rate at which DMD was taking away their sufferers’ ability to walk.
The scientific community are talking in terms of hope that a cure will be found and found soon but there is no government funding for this life saving research, which is where Joining Jack, and the support of the rugby league community, amongst others, come in.
Having set up the charity, Johnson approached the rugby league community and was told they would do whatever they could to help.
He added: “It’s been a number of years now since I have had the privilege to wear a Cherry and White Rugby League shirt on my back. Wigan were the first Rugby League club I played for and memories of playing nearly a hundred games will never leave me.
“Wigan gave me an enormous amount of support when I was there which allowed me to have a career in the sport that I love and I still feel like the Rugby League community are my extended family today. When you are in trouble you turn to your family for support and that is exactly what I have received from Rugby League for my son Jack.”
Tour de France and Olympic gold medallist Bradley Wiggins, Alan Halsall (Tyrone from Coronation Street), Ant and Dec and Rio Ferdinand are all notable supporters of the charity.
But it is not just famous people.
Joining Jack needs as many people as possible on his team.
There’s a great website www.JoiningJack.org which explains all about the charity. It also lets you how you can get involved. There’s information there about events and fundraising opportunities coming up and details about how you can let the charity know of your own ideas for raising money and awareness.
Joining Jack’s mission is such an important one because DMD is one of the most common fatal genetic disorders to affect children around the world. Approximately one in every 3,500 boys is born with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and 20,000 new cases are reported each year.
We’re Joining Jack, are you?