At Free Kicks Foundation we raise money to give deserving children and adults days out at football. In 2016, we are celebrating nine years since our launch.
We call our days out ‘Kicks’ and Free Kicks is run by Steve Thorpe and Sam Downing around their full time jobs and family commitments. Steve runs the fundraising, administration and social media side of the organisation. Meanwhile Sam co-ordinates all the Kicks, liaising with hospitals, charities, families and football clubs to ensure each experience is memorable and runs smoothly.
Since we started, we have taken nearly 650 deserving children and young adults to matches all over the country. The majority of children we work with go along to the matches as Team Mascots. This generally involves a tour of the ground, a new kit, visiting the players in the dressing rooms, a kickabout on the pitch and, of course, leading the team out ahead of kickoff. Alternatively we can provide hospitality packages and other experiences at any club in the country.
Many of our Kicks are at Peterborough United matches as this is our home team. For away games we contact organisations and ask them to nominate a fan of the local team for the treat. We are not limited to Peterborough United games though and have established links at many clubs including Watford, Doncaster Rovers, Reading and Millwall.
Posh have given us fantastic support over the years, we were one of their official charities for two seasons and our logo featured on the the third choice shirt for several games during 2009-10 season, which was obviously a very proud moment for us. During that time, four Posh players agreed to be Free Kicks ambassadors – Joe Lewis, George Boyd, Aaron Mclean and Charlie Lee. Since then we have added Ryan Bennett, Bobby Olejnik and Grant McCann to the team, plus Peterborough United chairman has taken up the role of patron of Free Kicks.
Every penny we spend on Kicks is raised by ourselves and an amazing team of supporters. We have several annual events including 5 a side tournament, cricket match, golf day and quiz night. We like to test ourselves and our supporters each year with a physical event, previous years have seen sponsored walks and driving challenges and have all been huge successes.
Since we got involved in using Twitter we have also had generous support from fans of other clubs. One of the most notable gestures came from Millwall fans who donate a percentage of the profits from the sale of their fanzine, Cold Blow Lane.
All the Kick recipients and their families that we meet are inspirational in one way or another. The excitement on their faces when they meet the players or see behind the scenes makes all the hard work worthwhile.
Adam took part in one of our first Kicks. We managed to arrange for him to watch a game at Stamford Bridge from the players lounge and he also got to meet John Terry, who gave him his shirt and captain’s armband from the game. Sadly later that year, Adam passed away and this is what his mum Rachel wrote for us about Adam’s day and what it meant to him and his family:
Adam had been a fan of Chelsea for a few years before he was diagnosed with cancer. When Free Kicks Foundation offered him a VIP trip to see Chelsea play, he was more than anything overwhelmed, as was I, that he was being given such an amazing treat just for being ill (as he would put it). We watched the game from the players lounge with some of the players’ families and one of the players willingly had his picture taken with Adam, despite Adam not wanting to bother him!
After the game, we were taken behind the scenes downstairs to where the players were and Adam was taken through to meet the players. He was nervous and excited. When he came back he had tears in his eyes and said “Mum, John Terry gave me his shirt and his Premiership captain’s armband”, which he had apparently never given away before. He was just so overwhelmed and happy and for me to see him smiling and excited like that after everything meant so much.
The experience continued when four months later, a few weeks before he died, Adam received a package from Chelsea for his birthday with gifts and a card hand-written from John Terry and Frank Lampard. He couldn’t believe it. He kept saying “Mum, are they real? Are they really from them?” It was an unforgettable, touching experience for Adam and the whole family – the shirt, armband and cards are all in a huge frame on the wall.
We still stay in touch with Rachel, she did a skydive for us and kindly agreed for us to name our annual five-a-side tournament after Adam.
If you would like to nominate a child for a Kick or get involved in fundrasing please email us via the contact from on this website or on twitter @FreeKicks .