AFC Wimbledon players and staff captured the festive spirit by delivering gifts to children suffering from illness at Christmas.
Assistant Manager Glyn Hodges was joined on Thursday by Will Nightingale, Anthony Hartigan, Egli Kaja, and Rod McDonald at St George’s Hospital to hand out presents to sick children at the Tooting-based facility.
On the same day, Manager Wally Downes, along with Ben Purrington, Terell Thomas, and Tom King, visited Shooting Star House Children’s Hospice in Hampton, to bring Christmas cheer to those less fortunate. Haydon the Womble was also at St George’s Hospital after he managed to take time out from his duties at nearby Wimbledon Common!
It was all made possible thanks to donations from Dons supporters to the annual AFC Wimbledon Foundation and Paul Strank Charitable Trust Christmas Toy Appeal.
Hayley Gilburt, Health Play Specialist at St George’s Hospital, said: “It has been one of the best days of the year here, it’s made children smile at a time when they’ve been stuck in their rooms and feeling so sad. It just makes them feel special at a difficult time. Sometimes children have to stay in hospital over Christmas and they can’t be with all their friends and families. This just brings a little happiness to their time here.”
Will Nightingale said: “It puts things into perspective. People in here are going through bad situations and we are just trying to keep a bit of positivity going and cheer them up for Christmas. We brought some presents along to hand them out to the kids. Being here shows that you can’t take anything for granted and we are just trying to do our bit to make the children happy.
“You’ve just got to try and keep things light-hearted when you talk to the children, try to have an engaging conversation with them that they can relate to. It’s nice to spend time with the kids and give something back to the community. I’m not always going to be asked to do these things after I’ve retired, so now I’m aiming to embrace it. It’s such a brilliant thing to bring a smile to the faces of children and their families.”
Wimbledon supporters generously donated toys at the home games against Southend United and Rochdale. In total, around 200 toys were donated with an additional £150 in cash from Dons fans at these two games.
AFC Wimbledon Foundation’s School Sports Manager Andy May said: “It was a great opportunity for the club to spread a bit of Christmas cheer. We’ve had a warm welcome from staff and the children at St George’s have enjoyed it too, which was the main reason for our visit. Football clubs should be about this community aspect and we are trying to build what we do as a club. It’s been a fantastic day out for us as a community scheme and it’s been great for us to get first-team players and management along to hand out the presents to children.”
Irene Strank, from Paul Strank Roofing Charitable Trust commented that: "It was great to have our annual Christmas Party with the kids and families at Shooting Star Chase Children's Hospice, and we were really pleased to bring our friends at AFC Wimbledon with us this year, as well as Shelby Tribble and Liam Gatsby. We had a fantastic time, and it was a pleasure to see the kids enjoying themselves at this festive time. We'd like to thank everyone who supported and made this possible, and wish everyone a Merry Christmas!"
Take a look at our gallery of pictures from the day by clicking on the link above.
If you missed out on donating to the Christmas Toy Appeal, there is still time to donate online to this fantastic cause via the Paul Strank Charitable Trust’s Christmas Appeal JustGiving page.