ALBION’S players today brought some Easter cheer to poorly patients during an ‘emotional’ visit to Birmingham Children’s Hospital – as they helped raise awareness of a fundraising drive to build a brand new cancer facility.
First-team squad members handed out Easter eggs, cuddly toys and games at the City Centre-based hospital, which provides a wide range of health services for youngsters across the West Midlands.
Skipper Chris Brunt, Ben Foster, Gareth McAuley, Boaz Myhill, Jonas Olsson and Liam Ridgewell met young patients from different wards in the hospital’s play centre, before visiting the cancer wards.
As well as taking part in, and judging, an Easter-themed colouring competition, the players joined in with games of pool, basketball and PlayStation football.
The visit coincided with the hospital’s £4million Children’s Cancer Centre Appeal, which is now in its final stages. The hospital has just £500,000 left to raise before work can begin to transform the ‘current cramped, out-dated and worn surroundings’ into world-class facilities.
Goalkeeper Ben said: “We saw with our own eyes today what brilliant care the cancer wards provide. I hope the hospital reaches its appeal target as soon as possible to enable its staff to provide an even better service.
“The kids were brilliant today. It says a lot about the staff who are looking after them that they all had smiles on their faces.
"We were in the playground and play rooms – there's plenty to keep them entertained.
"Pretty much all of the lads who went today are parents and have got a couple of kids of their own. Doing stuff like this makes you realise how lucky you are. It brings everything into perspective."
Vice-captain Jonas added: “It was my first visit to this hospital and there were a lot of emotions.
"It was nice to see the kids enjoying our visit and it's important for the players and club to do these kinds of things. If we can give the children some joy, we're happy to do that.
"It was a humbling experience. It's difficult to find words sometimes, especially when you have kids yourself. The feelings are sometimes overwhelming.”
This was the club’s third hospital visit of the season, with the players visiting Sandwell General and Russells Hall hospitals at Christmas.
A spokesperson for Birmingham Children’s Hospital said: “A huge thank you to the West Bromwich Albion players for paying us a very special Easter visit and for helping us to raise awareness of our £4million Children’s Cancer Centre Appeal.
“The players were able to see first-hand what life is like on the cancer ward and the difference the £4million will make to our children and young people with cancer.
“During their two-hour visit, the players posed for photos, signed autographs, took part in arts and crafts and played basketball.
“Everyone really enjoyed the visit, particularly those who will be spending their Easter holidays here in hospital.”
Albion’s chief executive, Mark Jenkins, said: “Birmingham Children’s Hospital provides an essential service to young people across the whole West Midlands region and we were happy to support their hard-working staff in this manner.”
The cancer unit at Birmingham sees around 3,000 cancer patients and their families from across the West Midlands and the UK every year.
The facility is over 30 years old and has completely outgrown its environment. New facilities and accommodation will include age-appropriate play zones, better communal areas for families and an improved outpatient area.