September 10, 2011 12:34 am

How to give it: Steve Rider

The lead presenter for ITV's Rugby World Cup coverage is patron of the British disabled charity United Response

Sports journalist Steve Rider, 61, is lead presenter for ITV's coverage of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand, which kicked off on Friday. He supports many organisations and is patron of the British disabled charity United Response.

What is the first charity you can remember supporting?

The first major thing I did was running the London Marathon for cancer charity Action Research. I’ve run it four times now. It’s hard. The last time, in 2010, I was booked to run with 10 “celebs” for the Seve Ballesteros Foundation. My training wasn’t going well so I rang them to say I was pulling out.

First I asked how everyone else was doing. “They’ve all pulled out, how’s your training going?” was the reply. So that was that. I had to do it.

Which cause do you feel most strongly about?

United Response is a particularly thought-provoking cause. It opens a lot of doors that would otherwise be closed to people with learning difficulties. It has also helped change our perception of disabled people, which 30 years ago saw them being locked up in padded cells. With charities I always think “What can I do?” and always end up running a golf day. I’d much rather be useful in an operating theatre or something like that but you do what you can.

I’ve got the contacts to run a golf day and I’m happy to help.

Should celebrities use their fame for good causes?

It’s not a chore or anything worthy to beat the drum about. It’s a genuinely pleasurable spin-off from what we do. At the end, even if it’s hard to imagine how, if you’ve contributed to the success of the event, that’s good. But really it’s us that’s getting the fun – don’t make any mistake about it.

How did you become involved with United Response?

I was hosting part of the Charity Awards. Su Sayer, who runs United Response, won an award. She made an astonishing speech that made me want to research the charity.

Once you start asking a charity questions, they ask if you can help, and I end up running golf days.

What do you get out of your giving?

It’s quite a selfish thing. My contributions are usually something that I enjoy doing, or a personal challenge. That’s not just a celebrity thing, you see it the whole time – people doing the kind of things they’d like to do and using charity to justify doing it, be that a bungee jump or walking from John O’Groats to Land’s End.

And good luck to them!

It’s a framework that works and benefits both sides.

Must charity be a long-term commitment?

No. I’m tied to many charities and I might not get involved for 18 months, then someone will ring up and ask if I can help. I’d love a longer-term commitment and I have much admiration for people who devote half their lives to causes but I’m not one of them.

howtogiveit@ft.com

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