PICTURED ABOVE – Jess and Ethan with Rhys Ellingham, Commercial Director, Southend United FC
As we approach the end of 2018, our charity can look back on a year when we received staggering and overwhelming support from so many people, groups and businesses.
We would like to focus on one continually supportive of our charity and that is Southend United FC.
In August 2015, our son Ethan (then aged 5) wanted to go and watch a football match. I said I would take him to a Southend game. Carli and our daughter (then aged 8) also wanted to come along. From the very first game, all 4 of us were hooked. We quickly became season card holders, Jess and Ethan became Junior Blues members (and were mascots at a game that season) and Carli and I became members of the Shrimpers Trust.
We even started going to some away games as a family – Charlton, Northampton, MK Dons.
When Carli sadly passed away, I asked the kids if they wanted to still go to games as it wouldn’t be the same without mummy. Both kids immediately said they wanted to carry on going and even said “it’s what mummy would want”. A close family friend, Darren (who had sat with us at most games) agreed to buy Carli’s season card.
The first game at home without Carli was hugely emotional and very difficult for me. I remember being in tears the whole game. It was an opening day victory against Blackburn. At the request of the club, Jess and Ethan were mascots. Carli’s name was mentioned in the matchday programme and was read out over the tannoy before the match and at half-time.
Since then, each game has got slightly easier although it remains poignant because, from my seat at Roots Hall, I can still see the spire of the church where Carli and I got married.
Our first contact with the club after we started the charity was to ask for some raffle prizes to our table sale. We were delighted they contributed a ‘mascot package’ and a ‘meal for 2 at a home game’.
As we moved ever nearer to setting up our first screening day, Roots Hall was always our preferred venue of choice. Not only would it be significant because of our family’s connection with the club but it would also be symbolic of the huge ambition our Foundation has.
We approached the club through Rhys Ellingham, Commercial Director, someone we had only spoken to about our charity and our aims.
Rhys was completely behind the idea of using Roots Hall and it was quickly agreed between the club, CRY and us that a screening day would be held in June 2019.
The club had also offered the potential for players to attend certain fundraising events. In August, Southend defender (and Cyprus international) Jason Demetriou attended our charity football reunion match. Jason had taken time out from his ‘family’ Sunday, stayed for well over an hour, signed autographs, posed for photos and chatted to our friends and family.
Our Foundation had also had the idea to announce patrons. One of the first people we approached was Adam Barrett, who is still considered by many fans to be “Mr. Southend United”. Adam, who is still massively respected at the club and attends matches when his schedule allows, immediately agreed and has been so supportive – attending our charity meal evening at Zen City.
In Late November, Adam arranged for us to meet up with another ex-Southend favourite, Ryan Leonard. Both Adam and Ryan are now currently at Millwall FC. Ryan happily chatted about our foundation and posed for a photo with Jess, Ethan and our newly-printed Charity banner. This image was then posted on twitter and re-tweeted by Ryan.
As we approach 2019, I know that next year will be another huge year which will only further our connection with the club. In the build-up to the screening day in June, the club will promote our charity through their various social media.
In 2018, I personally joined the board of the Shrimpers Trust and, in March 2019, they will be holding a Race Night to raise funds for our charity.
Also, in March 2019, another of our patrons, singer-songwriter Emily Frith, will be performing on the pitch pre-match – something that has been arranged by our charity and will be linked to promoting our screening day.
We continue to stay in constant communication with Rhys, Jason and Adam
So our charity has huge plans, so these involve Southend United. We hope that they will continue to support us in the amazing ways they have done so far