Article on the recent trip to Swindon
The Annual Volunteers’ Away Day had a great turn-out, with 105 dedicated supporters in attendance – and Chief Executive Erik Samuelson hopes that some of them will appear in the film about AFC Wimbledon.
If you missed the article in Sunday’s programme about last month’s trip to Swindon for our volunteers, we’ve republished this below.
This annual event, once again sponsored by Cherry Red Records, summed up what our club is all about, with fans of all ages who undertake a variety of volunteer roles on match days and throughout the season coming together for the Good Friday trip to Swindon. They included turnstile operators, Dons Trust Board members, stadium clean-up volunteers, Golden Goal sellers, programme sellers, matchday stewards, members of the ticketing and merchandise teams, fans who help out at the Junior Dons’ Christmas party – and even Haydon’s “minder”!
Erik Samuelson, a volunteer himself, paid tribute to the contribution of volunteers in a speech to all those who attended the pre-match meal, at the Double Tree (Hilton) Hotel. “Many thanks to all the volunteers,” he said. “We are almost unique in having a group of volunteers that includes supporters from other clubs too! Every year they come to the stadium clean-up weekend, and that is an extraordinary thing to do. If and when we get to make this film about the club, the extras should be our volunteers – so hopefully some of you will be in it!”
Father and son Dave (Cheltenham fan) and Simon Peacey (Bristol Rovers fan) were the supporters of other clubs to whom Erik was referring. Though the Away Day venue was closer to home for them on this occasion, both spoke passionately about why they go so far out of their way to give up their time for AFC Wimbledon.
“When the club was re-formed, we took an interest in how it was going, and we attended the Conference play-off final,” said Simon. “We heard that there was a clean-up weekend, and we thought we’d come down and help out. We came the following year too, and then we thought, ‘Let’s go for the hat-trick!’ After that, it became an annual event. We get such a good welcome, and everyone is so appreciative of us coming down, that it’s nice to do it. You feel like you’re giving something back as well.”
“With Wimbledon, it seems like the fans are more willing to roll their sleeves up and get involved,” added Dave. “With due respect to our own clubs, I’ve attended clean-up weekends at Cheltenham and we are very grateful for those who turn up, but it isn’t really in sufficient numbers. At Wimbledon, everyone says, ‘We’re in this together,’ and they roll their sleeves up for each other.”
Thanks to Cherry Red Records, all the volunteers on the Away Day were rewarded for those efforts with free travel, a free pre-match meal, and a ticket to the game. Club Vice-President Iain McNay, Founder of Cherry Red Records, handed out “goodies” after the meal, with free music albums for supporters.
The group at Swindon included long-serving volunteers and those who have started to help out at the club only recently. Golden Goals seller Maria Potter, though in her mid-twenties, is one of those in the former category as she has been involved in this great fundraising initiative for a decade. She joined her father, Jim, in the Golden Goals team, and being involved with AFC Wimbledon was a source of pride for her during her schooldays.
“It’s just nice to be a part of something that means so much to you,” said Maria, who works as an occupational therapist. “I started helping out with Golden Goals with Dad after I’d finished my Duke of Edinburgh Awards. When I was at school, I was one of the kids who supported their local football team. I could say that I went to a game every week, rather than being a Chelsea or Liverpool fan and not going to matches. I could go to somewhere nearby and feel really involved at a phoenix club at the heart of its community. We have a nice little Golden Goals team and we all have that little bit of competitiveness to see who can sell out first. When I first started, I think everyone used to come to me because I was the young girl and they wanted to help me out, but now that I’ve grown up they all go and speak to their favourites! I think I’ve lost my knack! It is good fun though.”
Of course, the club is always looking for new volunteers, and Hannah Kitcher has recently taken on more responsibilities by becoming part of the Dons Trust Board secretariat, which includes minute-taking and communications duties.
“I was following the club on Twitter, and I noticed a call for people to deliver fixture lists at the beginning of the season,” said Hannah. “Then I saw an advert asking for support for the Dons Trust Election Steering Group. I helped with social media, including the Dons Trust Webjam, and also utilising Survey Monkey. That fitted in with my last job as a researcher. Now I’ve moved more into communications for the DT, including minute-taking. Everyone at the club is so welcoming, and it’s great to be involved here.”
For Chris Draper, who was also carrying out interviews for the 9yrs Podcast, the day out was a welcome break from “minding” Haydon the Womble. “My main role on a match day is following Haydon around and making sure he doesn’t fall over! I do shift work, but I’ve only missed two or three games this season, which isn’t too bad. It’s been a lot of fun, and just seeing the smiles on the faces of the kids makes it all worthwhile. They light up when Haydon comes round. I’d say it’s one of the easier jobs I’ve done. I’ve also helped out at stadium clean-up weekends and with stewarding. Everyone says that clubs have a good supporter base, but we are a real family club and that makes a hell of a difference.”
The Lonsdale family sum up exactly what Chris was referring to. Dons Trust Board member Jane was joined by her two sons, William and Michael, two young Wimbledon supporters who both help out at stadium clean-up weekends. Jane’s husband Richard is also a volunteer, but he was unable to attend this Away Day.
“There are volunteering jobs at this club that can done by anyone from any age group,” said Jane. “I encourage the boys to volunteer because we are a fans’ club and we need that help. Without volunteers, we could not operate as a club in the way we want. We need the money to fund the players, the stadium and everything else. We still rely on volunteers, and without them the club would not have made the progress it has through the leagues.”
For that, everyone connected with the club should be thankful. This was a Good Friday event that really summed up the spirit of AFC Wimbledon.