Huddersfield Town Foundation’s Walking Football has helped Sean and Phil improve their physical and mental health.

The Foundation’s walking football is aimed at over 50s and/or anybody recovering from an injury, facilitated by a partnership with Locala, the sessions provide participants with the opportunity to meet new people, improve their physical fitness, and communicate their struggles.

The programme has had a huge influence on many lives, especially Sean Downey and Phil Jesney who together form part of a core group that was part of the first group to partake in the activity in 2020. Two years later, the pair still attend and the programme attracts on average 15 individuals compared to the original five.

Phil, pictured fourth from the left on the top row, explained how he initially became involved:

“After the COVID-19 pandemic I’d made a little list to myself of things I wanted to do, and one of them was Walking Football.

“I live on my own, so I wanted to get out and meet new people. I’ve made friendships and we’re now doing other activities outside the football!”

Sean, pictured bottom right, added:

“I’ve got fitter, I’ve made loads of friends and I’m enjoying football. We’ve also taken up fishing and started going for coffees as a group afterwards.

“We all come with our own burdens, but football allows us to forget them.”

The sessions are free to attend, and will continue to provide a fun, safe, open environment for all.

The Reds supporting their local community in the greatest need

In 2021, Nottingham Forest Community Trust were awarded the contract to deliver Nottingham’s Holiday Activity and Food Programme in collaboration with Nottingham City Council and the Department of Education.

This is the biggest delivery programme in the Trust’s history providing ‘Free Fun and Food’, including a wide range of physical activity and creative arts sessions to children from across Nottingham’s diverse communities who may not usually access such high-quality provision.

Over the past 12 months almost 14,000 children have taken part with over 75,000 nutritious meals being distributed to children and families at 14 different locations across our City.

Kelly, a parent of a participant said, “This is an absolutely fantastic programme that’s both accessible and free. My three children came home happy and I’m excited that they got to experience activities such as rock climbing. This is something they would never get to try as I can’t always afford to pay for extra activities.”

Jennie, another parent said, “My daughter finds meeting new people difficult, so this has given her the opportunity to meet new friends as well as enjoy different kinds of activities and learn new skills.’

To effectively measure impact, the Trust commissioned an external specialist agency who carried out extensive consultation which showed that 88% of participants felt a positive emotion whilst at the sessions, 62% of participants became motivated to take up sport as a regular activity and almost 100% stated that they turned up every day because the sessions were fun and exciting.

The Nottingham Holiday Activity and Food programme is a positive strategic collaboration of the public, private and third sectors in Nottingham, who are on a mission to serve local people to the best of our ability.

Kickstarting Careers with Mansfield Town

For many young people, finding employment is an arduous process at any time, but adding in a global pandemic made the whole task even more complicated. This is a statement that resonates with many, including Ruth Oldham and Chris Hall-Barnett, who both struggled to find any meaningful employment opportunities despite having high-level qualifications.

The lack of practical, real-world experience was the problem for both individuals. However, Mansfield Town in the Community was the outlet that provided both with opportunities to develop through their Kickstart scheme. The Kickstart programme aimed to help bring young people claiming universal credit, into the workplace.

Prior to her Kickstart role, Ruth studied a BTEC Level Two in Sport where she also gained her FA Level 1 Coaching qualification. With a huge passion for sport, Ruth immediately applied for the vacancy after stumbling across the position at her local job centre.

Ruth explained “I have always played, but it was great to get more involved in the coaching side of the game to add to my experience and knowledge.”

Like Ruth, Chris had also finished a sports qualification at college but felt the pandemic had caused him to lose direction of any employment opportunities. From the beginning, Chris expressed a desire to pursue a career in coaching, so when he was direct to Mansfield Town, it was a dream realised.

He said: “When I was on the college course, we did a lot of session plans, and I really enjoyed the process. I enjoyed standing in front of people and telling them how they could become better, helping everybody else.”

Both Chris and Ruth were individuals who were unsure of their futures and their employment prospects, but now both have secured full-time contracts at the Community Trust as coaches after impressing fellow coaches with their enthusiasm, dedication, and excellent rapport with the children.

How Golden Valiants Changes Lives- Alan and Hazel’s Story

Alan and Hazel first attended Port Vale’s Golden Valiants session in 2021 after a stroke left Alan shy and fearful. He struggled physically with his left side significantly weakened, and his short-term memory suffered also. Consequently, Alan became a shadow of himself, impacting his confidence in his loving wife and also bearing the secondary lasting effects of caring for someone who has suffered such a drastic change in their life.

Little did they know when they first stepped foot in the door at Port Vale that Golden Valiant’s would change their lives.

Port Vale’s Golden Valiants is part of the EFL Trust’s network of Extra Time Hubs.  The Hubs allow people in their retirement to enjoy the process of getting older. With friendships, support and being the socially active forefront of the Hubs aim, participants decide what they wish to take in with various activities on offer from quizzes to walking football.

When the pair first attended in July 2021, Alan was nervous, hiding behind Hazel and was heard to say, “I’m frightened”.

At the beginning of the first session, he avoided eye contact and verbal interaction with any member of staff and refused to participate in the activities on offer. After careful consideration from both the staff and Hazel, the session progressed, and they introduced large wooden dominoes to Alan. When asked if he would like to play, without replying, he began to turn over the dominoes, even though it was a lengthy and challenging process.

Alan and Hazel continued to attend, and Alan’s confidence grew. He started to interact with others, and his mobility started to improve by participating in our chair-based exercise, joining in with the dancing, and moving from one activity to another with balance and directness.

There have been many drastic improvements. Alan now has more confidence in using the parts of his body that were weakened and now takes part in intricate hand-eye coordination activities such as darts, painting and ten-pin bowling.

The stroke also meant Alan struggled with his short-term memory, not remembering why he was visiting places, who people were or what day of the week it was. However as Hazel, who now also volunteers at the Foundation’s Memory Lane Café, explains the regular session have also helped improve Alan’s memory: “Having a routine in place, where we can attend a group with such caring and attentive staff in a safe environment has been a lifesaver. Alan so looks forward to attending the sessions on a weekly basis. He has personally written Port-Vale day on the calendar for every Tuesday. His ability to dress himself and interact with others has dramatically increased and his confidence, verbal interaction skills, and his increased short term memory surprises me every day. He now takes pride in entering the building before me.”

How Wycombe Wanderers Gave Owen a Brighter Future

15-year-old Wycombe fan Owen needed inspiration in his life – something to focus his energy on. A lifelong Wycombe Wanderers fan, Owen was one of 16 children chosen for a unique project with Buckinghamshire Council and Wycombe Wanderers Sports & Education Trust (WWSET) which targeted vulnerable children in Buckinghamshire.

Those chosen for the project have experienced significant challenges in their life and struggle with mainstream education. They risk falling into a vicious cycle of having no qualifications to find employment and gain skills, and experience and build self-esteem which serves to knock their confidence further and lessen the opportunities to find meaningful employment. This was true of Owen, his circumstance left him low in confidence and he just did not really know what the future had in store for him.

The project, a Pre-Apprenticeship in Football Coaching, worked in partnership with Buckinghamshire Council’s Virtual School which aims to raise the educational achievement and school attendance of children and young people in care, and who have left care. The course involved a coaching award designed specifically for the children. Participants were welcomed to the Adams Park stadium on a matchday and provided with interactive coaching workshops before getting to watch the Wanderers with their coaches and tutors throughout the season. As well as coaches, the children were visited by a number of Wycombe Wanderers players for a Q and A session around all things coaching.  For football fan Owen, this is a dream opportunity, and it ignited a passion in him. He could now see a way forward, something to work towards and had a way to channel his energy.

Owen was then able to put his new coaching knowledge into practise by coaching within his community. Owen excelled in this environment, admitting that just a few weeks ago he would never have imagined being able to do. Since finishing the course, Owen continues to focus his energy on football coaching and developing other young people – he has taken up a voluntary coaching position with the Trust and has agreed to mentor the next phase children on the programme.

He said: I really enjoyed the course. It brought under 18’s together to build up their skills in coaching and communicating. This helped me to become a more civilised person and I was delighted when they asked me back as a junior coach.”

For Owen, the course was about far more than just the coaching knowledge gained. The course was about building confidence and self-esteem and showing him that there is an alternative way to learn, outside the classroom.

Maria Seth, of The Virtual School in Buckinghamshire, she said;

“On behalf of the Virtual school I would like to say it has been a joy to see the confidence increase in the young people involved and friendships formed which have been so beneficial to them all. Feedback from parents and carers has been overwhelmingly positive and we cannot wait to do the next project alongside WWSET with key stage 2 children from September.”



Wembley Dreams Come True in Utilita Kids Cup

Over 20,000 children have taken part in the Utiltia Kids and Girls Cups this year, all with the dream of playing at Wembley. For 48 children that dream, one that only a select few professional footballers ever achieve, will come true over the next two weekends    

Take a look at how our six remaining teams made the Utilita Kids Cup Final at Wembley Stadium!

Kids Cup Championship Final

Sheffield United, represented by Nethergreen Junior School, and Luton Town, represented by Sacred Heart Primary School, will battle it out in the Championship Final.

The Blades overcame Preston North End in the Regional Final, drawing 1-1 before seeing off the Lilywhites in a tense penalty shoot-out. Meanwhile, the Hatters edged Millwall in a seven-goal thriller to make it to Wembley, running out 4-3 victors over the Lions.

Kids Cup League One Final

In the League One Final, Portsmouth, represented by Meon Junior School, will take on Sheffield Wednesday, represented by Windmill Hill Primary School, for the winner’s medals.

The Owls earned their place in the Final, finding an extra gear in the second half of the regional Final against Crewe, scoring three goals. And Portsmouth secured passage to Wembley in style, vanquishing Charlton Athletic 7-3 in an emphatic win.

Kids Cup League Two Final

Finally, Exeter City, represented by Stoke Hill Junior School, will go head-to-head with Tranmere Rovers, represented by St George’s Primary School, in the League Two Final.

Tranmere needed spot-kicks to make it to the Final, eventually booking a date at Wembley after Harrogate Town hit the bar in the shoot-out in the Regional Final, whilst a slender 1-0 triumph over Bristol Rovers saw the Grecians through to the showpiece.

The Power of The Badge: Stephen’s Story

Stephen McNeil first attended Ayresome Park in 1967 with his dad and has been a Middlesbrough fan ever since. However, at this first outing, it was yet to be known how powerful the Boro badge would be for Stephen.

Stephen was on his own, and his life had spiralled out of control when he had a complete mental breakdown with emptiness and a lack of purpose.

“I’d gone, I couldn’t speak, couldn’t walk, nothing made sense,” he openly admits.

“I think I was put in a padded cell and visited by people trying to figure out what to do, how to help.

“I had no contact with friends or family, I was on my own and in a dark place,” he openly admits. “I had no-one to talk to, no sense of perspective, I didn’t know what to do anymore.”

Then the red of the Boro badge ignited a spark inside Stephen after noticing a poster advertising a trip to Ayresome Park, the place Stephen loved, where his lifelong club had created so many memories for him.

He explains: “ [The badge] helped me remember there was something in life that I wanted to do, there was no trip, it was a placebo and it worked, I had shown there was still something inside me and was allowed to go.”

Stephen owns two dogs but has little else in the way of company but once again the association with red and Boro changed his circumstances once more. He saw a Middlesbrough Foundation poster advertising a range of programmes hosted by the Foundation; Team Talk mental health session, Walk and Talk and Walking Football.

Stephen got involved in all three programmes. He said: “The power of the badge, the colour, that distinctive red and the work of the Foundation. All this has helped me massively.”

Middlesbrough and their Foundation have created a whole new pathway for Stephen powered from hope, support and inclusion.



PNCET and Guild Lodge partnership has given ex-service user John a new future to embark on with the Trust

John Richardson has progressed from a user of Preston North End’s Community and Education Trust’s partnership with Guild Lodge to giving back to the community and creating a better future for himself.

John was a patient at Guild Lodge, a mental health unit in Goosnargh, Preston when Tom Drake, the Trust’s CEO, visited to deliver weekly sessions to the service users. This meeting was the start of a whole new future for John having been in Guild Lodge for three and a half years.

The partnership between Guild Lodge and PNECET meant Tom quickly noticed John’s nature of engagement and willingness towards other participants. Consequently, John was offered the opportunity to volunteer within the Trust. Having been discharged from Guild Lodge, John began his evolving journey with Preston as he started as a volunteer and now a casual member of staff where he has gained paid employment working across the Community Engagement and Health and Wellbeing programmes.

John has also actively been involved in the Trust’s holiday activities and food programme, soccer schools as well as delivering PL Kicks sessions to younger generations of the community and has also engaged with men’s mental health group, Andy’s Man Club.

He explained:  “When I was at Guild Lodge, Tom Drake [PNECET CEO] came down and introduced himself and gave me some training. He later offered me a job. Now I’m a member of staff and I’m going back into Guild Lodge to help what Tom started.

“It’s helped me mature. It’s something I enjoy, which is a bonus. I’m doing it for myself, getting more confident, and helping children back on to the straight and narrow.”

John’s desire to serve the community that helped him has gained significant recognition as he was awarded Preston’s Community Gateway Association ‘Unsung Hero’ award.

He said: “I’ve been giving back to the community, that’s what I wanted to do. I’ve been helping other people get out of trouble, giving talks to young people and getting them off the wrong path and getting them onto the right path. I’m just enjoying my job.”

Young people on NCS rejuvenate school garden for local a school

Port Vale Foundation Trust’s (PVFT) young people have been making a significant impact upon themselves and within the community, as they carried out a project at their local school with the aim of increasing student socialisation and their mental health, through renovating a school garden.

As part of PVFT’s NCS programme, young people decided to carry out their social action project at Watermill school, where they attended as students. Watermill school is one of three SEN schools within the local area where PVFT deliver their NCS programme, in which the young students involved within the project have special educational needs.

The group worked immensely on creating a more aesthetically pleasing garden for the school and themselves, allowing the it to be a place where students could relieve any stresses and relax.

For the success of the project, the group decided to use their creativity and organisation skills, as they split the group up into smaller sections, dedicated to specific tasks.

For one of the tasks, the young people weeded and re-dug the area, creating a prettier space. Flowers were also planted, where water features were installed, powered by solar. Also, along this area, young people created a positive stone, featuring positive words, images and messages along with the names of the young people involved, which were permanently engrained onto stones. The main idea for this was to leave a lasting legacy that the Watermill Year 11 young people had during their NCS experience.

Other tasks involved creating a ‘bug hotel’ sanctuary for insects, digging out a flower bed and planting new seeds, re-painting a shed, cutting the apple trees and improving the general overall aesthetics of the garden.

Misbah Mahmood was one of the dedicated young people involved within the project, and had this to say about the experience:

“I really enjoyed my NCS experience and I learnt lots of new skills I would never have learnt. NCS has been really fun and I will miss doing the programme each day!”.

The project generated a massive impact upon the school, its garden, its students as well the young people involved, as they also benefitted greatly from the project, developing new skills, new friends and a stronger mentality through their hard endeavour. NCS Changemakers with PVFT will continue to monitor and improve the school garden in the long-term and uphold the legacy of the project created by the young people involved.

Paul Kirk, teacher at Watermill School had this to say about the legacy of the project:

“The NCS programme has had a huge impact on the social, emotional and cognitive development of our pupils. We have seen the pupils clearly develop their communication, teamwork, problem solving and leadership skills amongst many others. Our young people now often refer to their NCS skills and experiences as some of the highlights of their school life”.


The hard work and dedication from all the young people involved at the project did not go unnoticed by Watermill School, as the school hosted a special NCS Graduation Day for all the young people the be acknowledged and congratulated on their project.

NCS Project Lead at Port Vale Foundation, Jorgie Wallace, has this to say:

“The young people were amazing on the NCS programme, and they really did exceed all of our expectations. Throughout the 2 weeks, young people all pulled together to work as a team and demonstrated various different skills which they can use going into their future.”

 “As a staff team, we really enjoyed working with the young people, they kept us on our toes and definitely left a lasting legacy with their social action project. The young people are all a real asset to the school, NCS and Port Vale Foundation. The Graduation allowed us to celebrate all the success of the young people and recognise all their hard work on this once in a lifetime opportunity.”

Ipswich Town Community Trust provides the light at the end of the tunnel for Chris with Kickstart placement

Chris Moore has recently joined Ipswich Town Community Trust as a Health and Well-being Activator to give back to the same community that helped him after an ongoing battle with his mental health.

For much of the last 10-15 years, Chris has been fighting severe depression and anxiety but even more recently active psychosis. Consequently, he found day-to-day living difficult without even considering the huge impact a new job could have.

Despite this, with the help of his family, close friends, and mental health services in Suffolk, Chris is now at a stage where he can manage the symptoms and voices he incurs every day.

He heard about the opportunity with Ipswich Town and “felt this was a perfect way to give back to the community and services in Suffolk.” Although, mental health is a problem he faces 24 hours a day, 7 days a week Chris is determined to “prove to others that a mental health diagnosis is not the end, that young people with mental health issues can make it through, and that there is help there for everyone.”

As Chris takes a big step in his journey, one that wouldn’t have seemed possible before, he praises the Community Trust’s understanding of his circumstances. He said: “My new role allows me the freedom to get involved with what I’m passionate about helping the community. As well as being hugely supportive of my mental health conditions and workplace adjustments to make me more comfortable.

“I want to just say thank you to my support network of my Friends, Family, My Support worker & mental health care team, and last but not least, my new colleagues within the ITFC Community Trust team. Because if it wasn’t for all of you, I would not be in the place I am today, and I couldn’t help the community that helped me”.

Chris’ passion and desire to ensure he can help as many people as he can is evident in such detailed ideas and plans through his new role. He has already using his experience to help students at the local Suffolk One sixth form college in their future prospect.

He highlights: “I’m aiming to set up a scheme in the new year that combines the use of sport and exercise to battle the symptoms of mental health issues, whilst at the same time teaching members of the community about health and well-being factors relating to their own and others mental health conditions.

As well as this I’m also in the intermediate stage of setting up day trips to the stadium for game days and sport sessions, at the moment I’m involved in talks with management at Ipswich Hospital to get some of the dementia patients and staff day trips to games and sports sessions.”

Although Chris has experienced some very dark moments in his ongoing journey with his mental health, Ipswich Town Community Trust has provided him with the light at the end of the tunnel to give back and support his community.