The Children’s Unit at The Great Western Hospital received a very special visit this week as Swindon Town First-Team Head Coach, Scott Lindsey, and several of his players descended on the ward.
The likes of captain Angus MacDonald, Ben Gladwin, Tom Clayton and Ronan Darcy joined other team mates with sacks of presents and handed them out to young people of all ages.
The group took time to speak with mums and dads and take photos with the unsuspecting patients, embracing the smiles they received after handing out their gifts.
It’s easy to forget that many children and their loved ones will be spending Christmas in hospital this year, some of which are severely disabled or have complex illnesses and health needs.
Visiting the unit has become a regular fixture in the club’s calendar each year, but COVID meant that presents could only be delivered to the front entrance rather than to the children themselves last Christmas.
However, with restrictions having lifted slightly and all the necessary safety precautions taken, Scott and his charges were able to deliver a variety of gifts to babies, toddlers and young boys and girls.
Kenresa Stratford is Community and Events Fundraising Manager at the Great Western Hospital and helped facilitate the visit. She said: “Having Swindon Town visit the ward has been an incredible experience.
“The last two years have been really tough for patients at the hospital with the pandemic, and it’s only really been over the last twelve months we’ve begun getting back to some normality.
“This feels like the first Christmas in a long time that we’ve been able to organise normal visits and relax the protocols slightly, and to have the manager and players come in and hand out gifts has been amazing.
“You only have to see the impact it’s had on the children and parents having them on the wards and being able to escape from reality for a short time and interact.”
Town defender Tom Clayton, said: “I really enjoyed visiting the ward with the lads, and it really puts life into perspective and makes you realise what’s important.
“This is a really small thing that we can do as players but it has a really positive effect on those we’ve met, and to see the children’s faces light up when receiving a present is so nice.”
The Children’s Unit has been running at the hospital for more than 20 years, providing care to young people up to the age of eighteen with a range medical and surgical needs.
We’d like to thank all the staff at The Great Western for allowing us to visit the ward and for making us feel so welcome.
We would also like to pay tribute to all the NHS workers at the hospital and across the country who will continue their amazing work over the festive period, making a huge difference to the lives of so many.