Ipswich Town footballers swapped promotion thoughts for presents after meeting families and delivering gifts at a children’s hospice.
Skipper Sam Morsy, Christian Walton, Harry Clarke, Luke Woolfenden, Leif Davis and Dominic Ball, in addition to women’s team players Sophie Peskett and Kyra Robertson, paid a visit to The Treehouse.
As well as handing out presents, signing autographs and posing for photos, they spent time chatting to children, young people and families receiving care and support at the East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) base.
They also had the chance to get creative by taking part in a festive craft activity.
Twelve families were there and among those was mum Hannah Gizatullin, who brought daughter Emmie, six, and son Adam, 15. Emmie has a rare disorder of bone growth called Kniest Dysplasia.
“It was a fantastic afternoon,” she said.
“The players were so friendly and easy to talk to.
“They were genuinely interested in Emmie. They weren’t just going through the motions or doing it because they had to. They were doing it because they cared.”
Another mum, Jess Warburg, was equally impressed after bringing along her “unique little lady”, three-year-old daughter Cleo.
After numerous tests, Cleo does not have a condition or diagnosis yet – despite not growing for 18 months. She needs a tracheostomy to breathe and feeds via a percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy (PEG) tube.
“It was wonderful to meet the players and for them to find out more about our children and the work EACH does,” she said.
“They were genuinely intrigued and had lots of time for everyone. It was lovely to watch them forming bonds with the kids.”
Promotion-chasing Town are second in the Championship table and drew 2-2 at home to East Anglian rivals Norwich City on Saturday.
Ball, who also visited the hospice last year, believes taking time to engage with the community is an integral part of the players’ responsibilities.
He said: “Things like this are so important, especially at a community club like Ipswich.
“As footballers, we appreciate the position we’re in and having the opportunity to make a difference.
“It’s something we’re very grateful for and, to me, it’s the most important part of our job.
“It doesn’t cost us anything and it’s lovely being able to say hello, show our support and hopefully put smiles on faces.
“It’s also a privilege meeting some of the staff and spending time at The Treehouse.
“The work being done here to support families is incredible and we appreciate it very much.”
Defender Davis said it was an “honour” to spread some Christmas cheer.
“I always enjoy doing things like this and jump at any opportunity to get out in the community, especially at this time of year,” he said.
“People tell us we’ve made their day but the truth is they’ve made ours, too.
“We’re very grateful for the opportunity and it’s an honour.”
EACH Senior Corporate Fundraiser Billie Nugent said she was grateful to Town.
“We had such a lovely afternoon and it was an absolute joy seeing all those smiling faces,” she said.
“The players were brilliant, had time for everyone and took a genuine interest in the families.
“We’re very thankful for our relationship with the club, and the support we receive, and look forward to working together again in 2024.”