Ex-Leeds Rhinos star in St Gemma's Hospice walk in memory of mum and auntie
Former Leeds Rhinos star Richard Mathers has pledged to continue to support the "amazing" hospice which cared for both his mum and his auntie.
Mr Mathers and his nine-year-old daughter Blossom will be among hundreds of Gemma's Hospice supporters taking part in new night-time sponsored walk Light Up Leeds this Saturday (Sept 28).
They are taking part in memory of Richard's mother Kim, who died aged 47 on Christmas Eve 2003, and her twin sister Estelle Angus of Burmantofts, who died aged 62 in May of this year.
Mr Mathers, who played for rugby league clubs including Leeds Rhinos, Wakefield Trinity and Castleford Tigers, said both his mum and his auntie - who both suffered from cancer - were cared for by "wonderful" staff at St Gemma's.
Mr Mathers, who also has a five-year-old daughter called Ottilie, has helped raise thousands of pounds for St Gemma's since losing his mum when he was aged 20.
He ran this year's Great North Run for the hospice and is set for his first Marathon in London 2020 as he bids to raise a total of £10,000.
Mr Mathers, who grew up in East End Park, Leeds, said: "Both my mum and my auntie were looked after in their final months, weeks and days at the amazing St Gemma's Hospice by their wonderful staff.
"At a difficult time in people's lives, the care and attention that St Gemma's give - whether it be respite for a couple of days or end of life care - is fantastic."
Mr Mathers added: "It's just a great cause which is close to a lot of people's hearts.
"I will do as much as I can for St Gemma's after they have done so much for my family.
"I always have done and I will continue to do so."
Mr Mathers played in Leeds Rhinos home game against Castleford on Boxing Day 2003 , less than 48 hours after he was at his mum's bedside at St Gemma's when she lost her four-year battle against cancer.
Boxing Day 2003 would have been her 48th birthday.
He said at the time: "I wanted to play. Mum was always proud of me, especially when I pulled on my Leeds shirt, and there was no way I was going to let her down."
Mr Mathers said his mum was the "heart and soul" of his family, adding: "She went through a lot of illness too young - 47-years-old is no age at all.
"Myself and my younger brother Georgie lost our mum far too young. She was a big supporter of my rugby. She was a special lady."
Hundreds of walkers are set to take part in either six mile or 12 mile routes at this Saturday's Light Up Leeds event.
Mr Mathers and his daughter Blossom are set to take part in the six mile walk.
The walk starts and finishes from The Arena on Leeds Beckett University's Headingley Campus.
Registration on the day is from 7.30pm and both walks are due to leave at 9pm.
All walkers will be given a bright t-shirt to wear and a special lantern to carry to help us Light Up Leeds and show support for the hospice.
There will also be a commemorative medal for all walkers at the finish line.
There are adult places available for £22 and child places for £15.
To register for the Light up Leeds walk, go to: https://events.st-gemma.co.uk/events/light-up-leeds/To donate to Richard Mather's London Marathon 2020 Challenge JustGiving page, go to: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/richard-mathers21