ALBION players today embarked on their annual mission to bring festive cheer to children’s wards at hospitals in the Sandwell and Dudley area.
For the seventh year running, the Baggies are visiting two sites – Sandwell General and Russells Hall – and the first-team squad has joined forces with the club to buy an array of presents for young patients.
This afternoon, Ben Foster, Boaz Myhill, Jonas Olsson, Billy Jones, Claudio Yacob, Shane Long and Scott Sinclair joined Chris Brunt at Sandwell.
“The hospital visits are arranged by the club each year and the lads fully support them,” said skipper Brunt.
“Like me, a lot of the lads have got children of their own and know how tough it must be to be in hospital at this time of year.
“We met some really special kids today. Thankfully, a lot of them were upbeat.
“If we can go anywhere and help someone who’s not having a great time, it’s our job to do so – and we’re more than happy to do it.”
The players were joined at Sandwell by club mascots BaggieBird and Albi and are presenting each hospital with an electronic tablet, which have been kindly donated by Novus Tablet Technology Limited.
England international Foster added: “Our hospital visits are super humbling.
“As a parent, the thought of seeing poorly children can really affect you. But when you get there and see the kids’ faces light up when you give them presents, it makes it all worth it.
“You get a buzz from it and you come out feeling really glad you did it.”
Centre-half Olsson added: “We attend quite a few community events throughout the year and this is one we really look forward to.
“Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces makes you smile as well. It’s an emotional experience but if we contribute a bit of Christmas joy, it makes you feel good about yourself.”
Joanne Maher, play worker at Sandwell General Hospital, said: “Patients and staff look forward to the Albion players coming in every year.
“It really makes the children’s day a lot better and brings some smiles to children who may be feeling down at this time of the year. It is a great way to get the children and staff into the Christmas spirit.”
Albion chief executive, Mark Jenkins, added: “The Christmas visits to two of our nearest hospitals are part of our ongoing community work and something we take great pride in.
“The players are always warmly received and the visits help to boost the morale of the young patients and their families during what is an extremely difficult time of year to be in hospital.
“The players, in turn, are always moved by the courage of the children and the dedication of the hard-working staff.”