Leeds United Legend Jermaine Beckford, Leeds Rhinos past and present and a winner of ‘the toughest reality show on TV’ joined almost 100 people celebrating becoming abstinent from alcohol and/or drugs at the 2023 Forward Leeds Recovery Graduation.
Jermaine, Former Leeds Rhino Stevie Ward and current player first team player Justin Sangaré attended the event on Thursday 31 September, along with James Priestley the winner of series four of the Channel 4 reality show SAS: Who Dares Wins to hand out certificates to some of the people who had been supported by Forward Leeds.
The celebrities were joined by the country’s first Professor of Addiction and Recovery David Best and Cllr David Jenkins, Leeds City Council’s Deputy Executive Member for Public Health and Active Lifestyles,
Professor Best said: “Graduation events are so important to celebrate the achievement of recovery. While more than half of all those with addictions will eventually achieve five years of continuous sobriety, it is a long road that is strewn with pitfalls, so success is something to celebrate – not just for the person on that journey, but for their family, the wider recovery community and for society more generally.
“Events like this remind us of what success looks like, which will inspire others to undertake that journey, gird the motivation of staff and build new connections and empowerment from the recovery community to the wider society.”
Former Leeds Rhino Stevie Ward said: “The evening has been so inspiring. The people I admire most aren’t those who show up when they’re winning but they show up when you feel like you’re losing. Hearing the stories of some of the people graduating makes you realise just how much they have gone through to get here and to me, that is the sign of champion. I’m sure for many of them this will be a platform to now go on and achieve something incredible for themselves as well”.
Helen Cook, the Operations Director of Forward Leeds, said: ”We’re very grateful to Stevie, Justin, Jermaine, Jimmy and Professor Best for coming along and being such a big part of the event.
“By giving up their evening it helps to break down some of the stigma that goes along with issues with alcohol and drugs. Their presence shows our graduates, and their family, that recovery is something they should be really proud of achieving”.
The event took place in the Norman Hunter Suite at Elland Road, Leeds on 14 September 2023.
Pictures: From left to right: Stevie Ward, Jimmy Priestley, Helen Cook, Jermaine Beckford, Justin Sangaré and Matt Cook