The recent fundraising effort for young Seraph Thomas again showed how Hitchin Town FC are a true community club that is very keen to support charities and good causes. With bucket collections, profits from the Magic Night and donations from the players no less than £2,003.13 was raised for Seraph’s fund that aims to send him for specialist treatment in America for his neuroblastoma. I am very proud of the fact that since 2015 Hitchin Town FC have helped out both local and national charities on a regular basis and hopefully we are now seen in a much more positive light than was the case in the past.
The fact that we have been able to raise not just money but awareness of the good causes is something to be very pleased with. If we are able to use our position to help out why would we not do so. Our manager Mark Burke is also our community manager and ever since he retired from playing he has been responsible for the club getting involved in supporting good causes. Perhaps the longest running and most successful scheme has been the support of the Ability Counts football teams. From small beginnings the project grew with kits donated, coaching provided and facilities made available. To see how the team members gained confidence and self belief was so pleasing. The teams continue to prosper and there is also now a Junior Ability Accounts team despite council cut backs making it more difficult.
Mark also got the club involved in youth diversionary work and provided sports coaching for different projects in Hitchin working together with the police and disadvantaged youngsters. We got involved with road and rail safety projects to help young people and would always offer free tickets for home games to try and keep them involved.
The best example of our community outlook came with the celebrations to mark 150 years of football in Hitchin. Instead of keeping all the profits for club funds we decided instead to only retain one third and to use the other two thirds to support both a local and national charity. We chose Children in Need thinking we should help a charity that supports young people while we chose the Garden House Hospice as it was a charity that had helped many Hitchin supporters over the years. We were able to give no less than £6,870.57 to both charities. Indeed we have held other collections for Garden House Hospice over the years.
At our floodlight inauguration game with Arsenal in 2016 we decided to help the Willow Foundation the charity run by Bob and Megs Wilson. We made the game pay what you want and in total were able to donate £500 to the charity. We have often used pay what you want games to help charities and we actually sought FA permission to make our FA Cup game with Biggleswade United such an occasion. It led to a bumper attendance and we were able to donate £300 to Prostate Cancer UK from the enhanced gate receipts.
We have had a number of Forces Days which have benefitted military charities. The Royal British Legion received £550 from one such day, while Help for Heroes and the RAF Benevolent Fund have also received donations.
Ladies Day in 2016 saw £400 being donated to Breast Cancer Awareness as we continued to use our theme days to help charities. We supported MacMillan Cancer by organising a successful coffee morning which saw us donate £300 to the cause. We also held collections for the British Red Cross and Herts Young Homeless, while we also made a donation to the NHDC Chairman’s Charity Fund after being allowed to use Butts Close for additional parking on Butts Close.
The Canary Club run an annual Christmas dinner for local elderly people and these have been very well received and again see the club engaging with the local community at different age groups. Indeed we regularly donate prizes to local schools to support their raffles and quizzes while we also regularly send players to take part in such things as penalty shoot outs at fetes and fairs.
We do have an international side to our charity work as we have donated old kits to various countries including one project in Zimbabwe to help underprivileged children. We also often work with the Police and provided support for LGBT History Month as well as the Herts Constabulary and Herts FA Homophobia in Football Survey Results Launch.
I think we have been quite astute in trying to make a positive out of a negative and this was best shown after the Alfie Barker Twitter storm in late 2016. Barker made unfortunate remarks and we decided to raise money for Sands which is the stillbirth and neonatal death charity. We gained the charity great publicity as well as £2,150 in total from various fundraising events.
Women at The Game Days have also been used to help good causes. The most recent one saw £366.20 raised for Humanitas while earlier ones saw Target Ovarian Cancer receive £117 and Breast Cancer Now £128 with a further £208 for Humanitas.
We used Non League Day in 2017 to raise money for Stevenage Haven and North Herts Sanctuary to support the cause of the homeless. In total £1,033.34 was raised together again with much publicity.
I am very pleased that we have often used initiative to help good causes. The First Round F A Cup game with Solihull coincided with Remembrance Day and the club commissioned a special kit featuring the poppy and then auctioned the kit to raise £600 for the Royal British Legion. Further initiative saw the club order a special tribute shirt to mark the death of England legend Gordon Banks. Again the shirt was auctioned raising £250 for The ManKind Initiative.
Other good causes to benefit include Great Ormond Street Hospital which gained from a charity match organised by Dan Prowse and featured ex Hitchin players, the Feed Up Warm Up Initiative to which we donated prize, Brundles Special School and the Letchworth Foodbank which saw players and supporters donate food items. We also supported mental health charities The Shaw Foundation and Young Minds.
So the list of good causes we have supported exceeds 30 with over £15,000 raised together with the spotlight we have been able to give them. I doubt many clubs could match what we have done and as I said earlier I am so proud of what we have achieved. I have had messages from sponsors who have said they are happy to support us because of our charity and community work.
The way I see it is that the Hitchin community helped to save Top Field so it is only right and proper we use our continued survival to help others.
BY ROY IZZARD