Paul works with adults with learning difficulties and other diagnosis like ADHD and would ideally like to have them integrated into employment without any stigma attached.
The care home Robert resides in is in Southminster near Maldon and as an avid football fan, Robert watches his favourite game on the TV as often as possible but not having the funds to attend live matches has always been a barrier.
Consequently, Paul and Robert had the idea of setting up a fundraising page for his chosen charity, Sports Aid, with his aim of walking to every London club from his start point of Liverpool Street Station whilst ultimately getting to see live football!
“Liverpool Street was chosen as this is at the end of the main line from his house and easy for us to get to,” explained Paul. “Robert loves football. But more than that, he loves meeting people and being part of a crowd; it raises his self-esteem.
When we approached the clubs with the initial idea, we didn’t ask for free tickets, just a chance of seeing the ground and maybe including a few of the more restricted areas like a changing room but the response was overwhelming.
Every club welcomed us with a pair of tickets, but some went above and beyond, Leyton Orient being a stand-out due to the hospitality and allowing Robert to be a pre-match flag-bearer and then onto the pitch at half time to take a penalty!
He has this as his outstanding memory and on completion of this tremendous journey, we offered to buy him a shirt of his choice as a lasting memento and would have the number of miles printed on the back. He chose Orient.”
Some of the support by clubs was extremely generous. Arsenal provided a corporate box; Crystal Palace a tour of the changing rooms and Charlton interviewed Robert pitch-side prior to kick-off of their game. “But it was the whole of the welcome at Orient,” continued Paul. “We were invited into the Diversity Hub, presented with a club scarf and then the icing on the cake – that half-time penalty against Theo the mascot. Overall an overwhelming experience that Robert really has treasured.”
As Robert had committed to his own challenge, on the rare occasion when the walk from Liverpool Street was just a little too much for him on the day, he would complete the mileage the following day, walking around his local area until the appropriate measurement was complete!
Paul adds: “We had one ground to go – Watford – as the Covid virus struck and so we aim to do that once the situation allows. That would take our total distance walked to 82 miles.
However, the fundraiser has already over-achieved its target and Robert and his whole staff team are over the moon about that. Ideally, my next target would be to find Robert suitable employment; even a voluntary position once a week would be amazing.
He has shown he is a committed individual that can create positivity not just in his own life but in others. He sends his sincere thanks to all the clubs that treated him with dignity and respect and that helped him fulfil his dream and once the Watford trip is complete, we’ll get that O’s shirt done!”
If you’d like to check out Robert’s page or donate, please go to: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Robertswalktofootball