Rugby match tribute to Leeds Rhinos fan and police dog handler who took his own life
A friend of a police dog handler from Leeds who took his own life has organised a charity rugby match as his way of saying 'thank you'.
Danny Elston has organised Sunday's game as a tribute to the 'amazingly friendly, kind and generous' Mick Atkinson, who died in October 2018.
PC Mick 'Aky' Atkinson, 37, from Oulton, took his own life after suffering health problems which led to him no longer being able to do the job he loved with North Yorkshire Police.
The idea for a charity rugby league match in his memory came about at his funeral when police colleague Ian Hughes approached friend Danny Elston, 41.
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Referring to Mr Atkinson's struggles, Mr Elston said: "I've been through some of that myself but luckily came through the other side. Mick was so amazingly kind and generous to me - this is my way of saying thank you."
Mr Elston had just moved back to Oulton from Wales and had hit upon hard times. He had set up his own gardening business but was living with his parents.
When Mr Elston was mowing Mr Atkinson's lawns, he mentioned he was trying to get set up in his own place. Mr Atkinson, who was selling his house at the time, said he could have his furniture for free.
"That tiny thing changed my life," said Mr Elston, who is now happily set up with his gardening business.
Money raised from the game between Police Rugby League and Oulton Raiders Over 35s will be split between a fund for Mr Atkinson's daughter Elizabeth, mental health charity Mind and the Leeds Rhinos Foundation.
The two teams will be playing for the first AKY Memorial Trophy, watched on by Mr Atkinson's family.
"We're trying to raise as much awareness for this as possible and we'll see where it goes. It could become bigger and better, an annual or bi-annual thing," Mr Elston added.
It takes place at Oulton Raiders ARLFC, Wakefield Road, Oulton on Easter Sunday. Oulton versus Hunslet under-nines kicks off at noon, with the adult game starting at 1.30pm.
There will be a barbecue, drinks, a bouncy castle and it is hoped the North Yorkshire police dog display team will be attending.
Mr Atkinson also had two stepsons and was coach of the Hunslet Warriors under eights rugby league side and a regular at Leeds Rhinos matches.