Video & Gallery: Town stars delight young patients

CHRISTMAS arrived early for children who received a special visit from Ipswich Town stars.

Russell Claydon

CHRISTMAS arrived early for children who received a special visit from Ipswich Town stars.

The first-team players took gifts and brought festive cheer to hospitals and hospices in Ipswich, Colchester and Bury St Edmunds yesterday.

Children who might not be able to spend Christmas at home this year got to meet their heroes who took part in activities as well as bringing them presents to unwrap and signing autographs.

At the East Anglian Children's Hospice (EACH) in Ipswich club captain Richard Naylor, goalkeeper Richard Wright and defenders Alex Bruce and David Wright spent the afternoon with children with life-limiting disabilities.

On top of the merchandise provided by the club, the players clubbed together £2,000 to add additional gifts, including DVDs, toys and games to take to them.

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They took the time to join in a Christmas stocking painting session as well as demonstrating how to use the new toys, which will be left at the centre for the benefit of the children.

David Wright was so touched by his first visit to the centre two years ago that he decided to personally organise fundraising events for it.

The father of two took the opportunity yesterday to present a £1,010 cheque to workers at the centre which he had raised through a golf day and auctioning off signed memorabilia.

He said: “It was after my experience with the kids that I asked if I could do anything to help and they said it would be great, so I have had golf days and sold singed shirts and auctioning things and raised a few thousands pounds.

“I want to do as much as I can to help and I think it is a great thing to be part of.

“I have two children so that is probably the reason it hit me so hard. In the past I have been to hospitals but never experienced what I experienced here.”

Jenny Winton, a nurse at EACH, said: “It is great for the children as for a lot of them life is quite a struggle. Meeting their heroes is a big boast.”

Fellow first team players Owen Garvan, Kevin Lisbie, Moritz Volz, and Ben Thatcher, along with coach Steve Foley, spent more than an hour at Colchester General Hospital.

The players presented a box of gifts for the Children's Ward to use throughout the year, including a portable DVD player, DVDs, a CD player, games and toys.

Lynda Pearce, Matron for Children's Services at the hospital, said: “We're very fortunate that players from Ipswich Town choose to come and visit us every Christmas and it's something that the children and their families - as well as staff - look forward to and appreciate.

“We're especially grateful that not only will the players be bringing presents for Christmas but also gifts that can be enjoyed by the children at all times.”

Town manager Jim Magilton joined his players Pablo Counago, Ivan Campo, Jordan Rhodes and Jon Walters in visiting Ipswich Hospital.

Magilton said: “The players really enjoy seeing everyone on the wards and love putting smiles on their faces. It's great that we can show our support to our community at this time of year.”

At West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, striker Jon Stead and midfielders Darren Ambrose and Alan Quinn chatted to young patients and handed out presents.

The visit was especially personal to talented youngster Ed Upson, whose family live in the town.

He said: “It's the first time I have been involved with the players' hospital visits but I know how important they are to the players and the club. It's a chance for us to spread some Christmas goodwill to the patients and staff at the hospitals.”

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