Children from across the region affected by cancer and chronic health issues recently enjoyed a football tournament at Newcastle United’s Academy thanks to a very special charity partnership.

Gareth Williams, Ethan and Lisa Jane O’Neil

Our Foundation and the Great North Children’s Hospital Foundation, both part of Newcastle Hospitals Charity, fund two roles to support children affected by cancer and other conditions based at the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle.

The project is delivered by Newcastle United Foundation and offers young patients from across the region and beyond the chance to take part in recreational activities, indoor sports games and educational opportunities, encouraging them to play, laugh, learn and stay active alongside their siblings and family members.

It also gives them the chance to take part in activities outside the hospital, where possible, and the schools who played in the football tournament all had pupils who have been affected by cancer or chronic health issues, including 12-year-old Ethan O’Neill, from Consett, who helped on the day by presenting the medals.

Ethan’s mam, Lisa Jane O’Neil, was proud to see him getting involved with the football tournament.

She says: “Ethan was diagnosed on 22 February with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and the cancer spread pretty much all over. So we were in and out of the hospital most days and that’s where we started working with the Foundation.

“It’s really great to have opportunities like this because what he’s going through is awful but little things like this just uplift him.

“It’s nice to get him out because at the moment he can’t do a lot activity wise and he’s really restricted now as to what he can and can’t do. Things like going to the match and coming here today, it gets him out the house, gets me out the house and he’s doing the thing that he enjoys, which is football.

“You wouldn’t normally get this opportunity, so it’s great that the charities are working together to give him these moments.”

Keisha Makin, a 16-year-old Haematopoeitic Stem Cell Transplant Unit patient at the Great North Children’s Hospital, also had the honour of presenting the medals.

She said: “It made a nice day out and got me out of the hospital. It’s nice seeing everyone have a happy time.”

Gareth Williams is a project co-ordinator and has been in post since 2017. He passionately believes in the benefits of engaging with children within and outside hospital to help maintain and build their confidence.

Gareth says: “This project makes an enormous difference to children and their families when they need it most and it was great to see all the enthusiasm from the kids, like Keisha and Ethan, who played or got involved in the football.

“It’s a treat to play on such professional pitches and I know they were talking about it non-stop afterwards!”