Over the summer holidays it has been a pleasure to welcome many children of all abilities and backgrounds to the Poundland Bescot Stadium through our Holiday and Food activities (HAF).
The HAF provision, funded by the Department of Education, is part of a nationwide effort to provide children and young people from eligible families with access to enrichment activities and healthy food during the school holidays.
With a free hot meal provided each and every lunch time, children eligible to receive free school meals can participate in our daily Soccer Schools football sessions at zero cost.
One participant, Jenson, began attending the programme and was identified by coaches to seem quiet. Our Walsall FC Foundation staff members made an extra effort to encourage Jenson and ensure he was comfortable amongst his peers and quickly began seeing significant positive developments.
With each day passing, Jenson had continued to make huge strides in his communication, engagement and confidence; as such we decided to reward Jenson with the opportunity to walk out with the first team as Community Mascot on the Walsall FC v Tranmere Rovers home fixture.
Jenson’s parents were ecstatic to hear the news and kindly shared the following:
“Jenson has only been at the HAF activities for three days and what a difference there has been.
“Jenson faces many challenges every day. Social communication is a big one for Jenson and his learning isn't on par with the rest of his peers. Jenson has ADHD, austim, neurological development delay and a sleep disorder.
“Jenson often questions himself as to why he his different and can't be like his friends. Football however is one of Jenson’s strong subjects, these last few days he has grown as an individual and has began saying things like; 'Mommy, daddy, I can play mommy, I can play like the football players and it's what I love, I want to be a footballer,'
"To have this feedback from a child who doesn't talk about there day is absolutely amazing, he is talking and communicating with us about his main interest and what he needs the day after for his day.
“Thank you for helping our boy shine, thank you for helping him communicate and thank you for helping Jenson to be Jenson.”
Our HAF activities take place during the Easter, Summer and Christmas school holidays. Those eligible for to receive free school meals can sign up for free here: https://go.walsall.gov.uk/children_and_young_people/haf_signup alternatively you can email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.