SOS IRB Kit Aid celebrated its most successful ever year in 2008 by being asked to join forces with the British and Irish Lions in 2009 on their tour of South Africa.
The rugby charity delivered more new and used rugby kit than ever before to grateful recipients in emerging rugby nations in 2008, including South Africa for the first time, and has been invited by HSBC to run the logistics side of the Community Programme of the Lions tour.
"It is going to involve the collection of kit from 40 UK schools during 2008/09 and delivering it to 40 South African Schools when the Lions visit in June 2009," said the charity's founder and Chairman John Broadfoot.
"In 2009 we are also aiming to increase our deliveries to at least 30, and grow our country numbers to at least 15, including the addition of two more in Africa and maybe one in South America."
Despite a tough economic climate for a logistics organisation with the price of oil rising so sharply, the charity set itself an ambitious target of 24 international deliveries in 2008, and over-achieved by making 27.
"It was a fantastic year and we made an increase of nearly 23% over 2007," said Broadfoot.
"We delivered nearly 9,000 quality new or used rugby shirts and the total value of our 27 kit deliveries to 13 emerging countries was in the region of £380,000. That means that since we started in 2001, we've delivered kit worth nearly £1.5 million.
"We also delivered to three new countries in 2008: South Africa, Swaziland and Kazakhstan, and new continents in Africa and Asia.
"All this came from the dedication and hard work of all the SOS staff and the wonderful support of our principle sponsors the IRB, Fexco-Western Union, DHL and South African Airways," he added.
"South African Airway's generous new sponsorship enabled us to deliver kit for nothing to South Africa and Swaziland and DHL also delivered free to Kazakhstan."
2008 was also a year in which the SOS IRB Kit Aid charity received formal recognition for its work at the Rugby Business Awards at Rugby Expo in November by winning the 'Corporate Social Responsibility' Award.
The charity's infrastructure was also bolstered to accommodate the increased demand going forward. Two new Regional Directors, John Marshall (East Midlands) and Ed Friend (West Midlands) were taken on board, while the organisation trebled its storage and distribution capacity with new facilities in Blackpool and South Wales.
Great strides were also made in conjuction with top clubs in the UK, in particular with the Community departments at Gloucester, Bath and Worcester in England's Guinness Premiership, all of whom joined the 'SOS Green' kit recycling scheme.
"Please keep sending the kit in - we need it," added Broadfoot. "We have 56 more emerging nations on our waiting list!"
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