Volunteering for his local Community Sports Trust was not something Tom Campbell (pictured far left) could have envisaged when he joined Brentford’s disability projects twelve years ago.
Tom, who has autism, joined the weekly football sessions to support him with his social and communication difficulties. His parents’ motivation for joining the project came from his difficulties in social situations; yet our ‘On the Ball’ project proved to be a turning point for Tom.
With football always being a personal passion, he found his vocation and, over the years, took on some leadership roles within the session.
The Trust’s ‘On the Ball’ project aims to tackle mental health problems on the heart of the football pitch. The ten-week programme supports children – aged 5-11 years old – who have autism or learning difficulties in west London. The project is delivered in partnership with Action Attainment, a charity in west London that is committed to enabling children with speech, language, communication and sensory needs to achieve and have active lives.
Speaking about the project, and the benefit it has had on him, Tom said:
“The Saturday morning football sessions have become a regular component of my week; I have been going for at least 12 years now. I have improved my physical fitness, coordination and strength, and it has given me something of real value to do on the weekend.
This project had such a profound effect on Tom that he began volunteering for the Trust three years ago – supporting the Trust’s disability projects and taking on the role of Assistant Head Coach.
“Volunteering has been a learning curve as I have learnt how to handle many different types of people from different backgrounds and different physical difficulties,” Tom said.
“I have also started going regularly to Brentford home games as a season ticket holder; this has become a major part of my life and I have become a passionate supporter and I love going to games.”
And Disability Manager for the Trust, Chris Tribe, believes that Tom has flourished in his role as a volunteer – becoming a role model for other children who have autism.
“When Tom first started, he was very anxious and reluctant to join in with the activities,” Chris said.
“Over time, his confidence really increased and in recent years, he has volunteered for us and become an avid Brentford fan and season-ticket holder. We look forward to working with Tom and his family as his journey into adult life progresses.”
Last year, Tom started full-time employment, and he credits his volunteering experience with helping him gain this role. And despite him kick-starting his professional career, you will still see Tom coaching the Saturday morning sessions – giving back to the project that helped him all those years ago.