The passion in football can change lives – and living proof comes from the CPFC Foundation, the premier league club’s charitable arm which touches the lives of thousands of youngsters every year across south London, improving their life chances.
On Wednesday September 19th, the CPFC Foundation reached out to the community of South London asking for partnership, support and ideas to help it further improve the community work it does through its coaching and mentoring programmes.
The CPFC Foundation launched its new strategy at a prestigious event hosted by Sky Sports news presenter Vicky Gomersall, at Croydon Town Hall where it heard the stories of some of the many lives touched by the CPFC Foundation and its ambitions to expand its charitable work further in future years.
David Groves, chairman of the CPFC Foundation told a packed room why as a lifelong supporter he first got involved that the CPFC Foundation’s and the CPFC Foundations Head, Donald Forde explained key aims in its new strategy are: Growing the Game, Childhood Support, Youth and Community Development, Education, Employment and Business and Health and Wellbeing.
Ian Holloway, Palace’s manager, told the audience he wanted to pass on the inspiration he had received from his own father, a talented amateur player.
“My dad said you would meet some wonderful people through football and here I am, meeting wonderful people who aren’t just thinking about themselves but about other people. My dad was right – this game heals all sorts of wounds. It teaches you how can’t achieve something on your own, you can be part of team, you need someone around you, a community, and that’s what we can do – we can reach out to people who haven’t got what we’ve got and make them shine and believe in themselves.
“I am so proud of what Crystal Palace does in the community,” said Ian, who said he felt like coming to Croydon was ‘like coming home’.
“To me this is a club with a heart beating so loud I want the rest of London to remember it. I wish everyone could be touched by Palace – you won’t ever forget this place because it’s absolutely sensational.”
The event heard from three young people whose lives had been touched by the CPFC Foundation’s support, ranging in age from a schoolboy to a university student and ex-prison inmate.
Youth worker Aaron McGrath is unrecognisable today as the young troublemaker who ended up in prison following a downward spiral of alcohol, drugs and depression. He credits the Crystal Palace Foundation with literally saving his life.
“I would probably still be in prison, or not alive by now,” said Aaron who was introduced to the Foundation as a volunteer by the Princes Trust on his release from prison.
“Football has always been my love – the one thing I’ve been passionate about and every single person at Palace has supported me through all the tough times and stuck by me. They have saved my life.”
The only football-mad schoolgirl in a family of five girls, Deborah was devastated when she was told at 16 she could never play again after suffering severe ligament damage in both knees.
“My heart was broken because playing football was the only way to express my passion and I thought ‘this is it’,” said Deborah.
But a year and a half later, when she was still in too much pain to play, she was offered the chance to train for free as a Level 1 FA coach by the CPFC Foundation. Now a youth worker, she uses her coaching skills to support other girls into the game and is about to enter university to study biomedical science.
“I will be grateful to the CPFC Foundation for that training as long as I live as it gave me a platform to be a part of their institution and to pursue a passion of mine that will not go away,” said Deborah, now aged 18.
As an autistic child first attending school at the age of 5, Mark stood on the edge of the playground where he found it hard to join in games and make friends.
But regular Friday coaching sessions provided by Palace at his school changed his life – now aged 12, Mark is Sutton Little League’s Player of the Year and a respected, confident team player with a wide circle of friends.
Teaching assistant Violet D’Sauza said: “When I first met Mark he was a little boy who had a barrier against the world – he had no self-belief and didn’t know how to like himself.
“But that one little thing – the football coaching – made a massive difference to this boy’s life. It taught him to believe in himself, to like himself and that he could achieve anything he wanted.”
Further information on the strategy is available at JennyBourke@CPFCfoundation.org
And any organisation wanting to work with the CPFC Foundation to help it expand its charitable work should contact DonaldForde@cpfcfoundation.org