West Ham United football club yesterday continued their festive tradition of visiting young patients at Newham University Hospital.
Players Fabian Balbuena, Michail Antonio, Pablo Zabaleta, Declan Rice and Nathan Holland spent the afternoon at the Rainbow Centre children’s ward handing out West Ham United themed Christmas gifts.
Children, parents and staff were uplifted by their visit. Hammers fan Reece, 14, from Beckton said: “It was really exciting to meet the players.” His Mum Gemma added: “This is a big thing for Reece, he’s a West Ham season ticket holder and he was even a mascot two years ago.”
Five-year-old Aryaan from Newham also received a bedside visit. Mum Himmu commented: “Aryaan’s been looking forward to the players’ visit all morning. He was here when Patrice Evra visited too. He’s getting into football now and learning how to play.”
Forward Michail Antonio said: “It’s very important that we take time to make these visits. I know what it feels like as a parent to have a child in hospital over Christmas – my first son was born six weeks premature, and it is very tough.
“To be able to come in and help put a smile on the children’s faces is something you can’t put into words. I was here last year and enjoyed every minute of it, it is something I love doing, and I will keep doing it for as long as I can.”
West Ham United defender Pablo Zabaleta added: “We were so pleased to spend some time with the children and their families. We know how tough it is for them to be in hospital over the Christmas period, so to come here, bring some gifts and chat to them, is really great. I hope the children have enjoyed the day.”
Hamera Elahi, Healthcare Play Specialist at Newham Hospital said: “All the kids were excited, it really boosts morale on the ward having the players come to visit."
Barts Charity, who organised the visit, have recently launched their Greatest Gift Christmas Appeal. They want to spread some Christmas joy to all children and older patients spending Christmas in Newham University and our other Barts Health NHS Trust Hospitals by making sure they have a gift to open on Christmas Day.
To donate a gift, please visit www.bartscharity.org.uk, text GGIF18 £10 to 70070 or call 020 7618 0720.