The father of a 13-year-old boy murdered in Reading in January has thanked the rugby community and Wooden Spoon for the support it has shown him and his family since the tragedy.

On 3 January this year, 13-year-old Olly Stephens was tragically killed in a park after being stabbed by two boys waiting for him.

Rugby charity Wooden Spoon hosted Vets Fest last weekend, and Olly's memory was honoured with the 'Olly Stephens Trophy' presentation to the winning team who both won the most games and raised the most funds for vulnerable children.

His father, Stuart, a London Irish fan, decided to work with Wooden Spoon and organise the event in memory of his son, who shared his passion for rugby.

"Something like this today has a deeper meaning for us because our whole support structure has come through rugby," said Stuart, speaking at Bournville Rugby Football Club, where Vets Fest 2021 was hosted.

 "The social aspect of it and the fact that everyone looks after each other is brilliant, rugby is brutal as a game, but afterward, everyone stands up, shakes hands, and has a drink at the bar.

"We're so engaged with the rugby now because we feel like we had so much out of it, and we feel like we need to give something back; if we can help raise awareness to benefit the charity, then we will do that."

Wooden Spoon hosted its biggest event of the year and raised over £60,000 for vulnerable children across the UK, with 450 players from 15 teams across 13 regions taking part in 37 matches.

Working with Olly's family, Wooden Spoon aims to donate the funds raised from Vets Fest to regional programmes for disengaged children and young people across the UK and Ireland to support them to make better life choices, with the aim that more children and young people are not lost to mindless violence.

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Stuart added: "It's important we use rugby to change the lives of young people because it provides role models for young children who sadly appear to be lacking now.

"But also, the community around rugby, the whole family go, and it's a good day out, there's a massive social and community element to rugby and me it can only be a positive thing.

"I was always keen to push the values of rugby onto Olly; I use Kyle Sinckler, Ellis Genge, and Joe Marler as examples of people who have come from awkward backgrounds but have risen to be England internationals.

“Olly was bright, great fun, loyal, compassionate, full of love and giving but would stand his ground.

“Olly was taken from us this year in the most tragic of circumstances. He left the house to see someone we knew, and he never returned home.

“Olly had autism with suspected Pathological Demand Avoidance, but we loved him for it and it made him special. He could not sense danger or deceit and trusted people too much. He always stood up for the underdog and never backed down from a fight. Sadly, it cost him his life.

“As father and son, we always made happy memories together. “What are we doing today dad?” he would ask. Making memories would be my reply. I loved his company. Always.

“Through rugby we have made a great network of people and friends who have helped myself and my family through this most traumatic of times. The values that we all take for granted are so precious and so easily broken.”

VestFest21 – Changing children’s lives through the power of rugby. Register for next year at //