Woking fans’ £1,400 gift for kids

GENEROUS Woking FC fans helped to raise nearly £1,400 for a charity for bereaved children at a bucket collection during the FA Cup Third round match clash with Watford.

Halo Children’s Foundation had nearly 30 collectors at the match, around half of whom were Goldsworth Park Rangers players, including the Vikings U9s seven-a-side team whose home kit carries the charity’s logo.

Claire Browne speaking at a media press conference with Woking manager Alan Dowson

Halo’s involvement with the Cards was arranged by Goldworth Park mum Claire Browne, whose partner died of cancer two years ago. Claire found the charity while looking for support for her son Laurie, who plays for the Vikings.

In August last year, Woking FC manager Alan “Dowse” Dowson hosted a visit to the Laithwaite Community Stadium by the Vikings U9s so they could collect their new kit and also meet Cards players and staff.

When Woking was drawn against the Premier League giants last Sunday, Dowse invited Halo to do a bucket collection. At the press conference on the Friday before the game, the manager invited Claire to address the meeting, which included journalist from national papers and the BBC.

“That was a bit scary as they didn’t tell me I’d be doing it until two minutes before,” said Claire, who works at the White Lodge Centre, the disabled children’s charity in Chertsey.

“Several people have made contact from that and it has led to a couple of invitations to go on radio shows. It was such a fantastic opportunity. When the draw came up we were over the moon to be invited to collect at Woking’s biggest game for a long time.”

Claire and the charity’s founder and CEO Alia Jones were invited to speak at the pre-match hospitality event on Sunday.

A local man whose wife had recently died spoke to the pair about getting support for his child.

“There are a lot of families where children have lost their father and so it tends to be women who approach us but recently more men have been coming forward,” Alia said.

Claire and Alia said that the club, especially Dowse, has been very supportive of the charity.

Halo offers regular support group meetings and information about dealing with various crises, including long-term illness.

The charity, based in Hillingdon, northwest London, supports several Woking families.

Claire said that raising awareness that the charity existed to support bereaved children was as important as the money collected on Sunday.

“There was a bit about Halo in the programme, which was great,” she added.

“The atmosphere at the ground was brilliant and we had several collectors in the Watford section and those fans were very generous. It was a fantastic day for the kids, who are all Woking supporters. They were on their feet for about four hours and did ever so well. They did get to see the game and it was all a lovely memory for them.”

Alia said she had not yet decided how to use the collection, which totalled £1,337 and a few euros, but was working on a couple of big projects. These included providing a permanent meeting place for bereaved children and their families and books to be distributed at schools in which children who had lost a parent could record their thoughts and memories in writing and art.

For more information, visit http://www.halochildrensfoundation.org.uk/

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