This time last week I was as sick as a dog and just leaving the hospital due to a stupid infection... but at home, with a smile on his face, Kyd was getting ready to brave the cold November night, in his footy kit to live his dream on the pitch with his heroes and be mascot at Reading FC vs Peterborough Utd.
Laying in my hospital bed all I could think of was my baby, my big baby and his upcoming appearance in front of 1000's of people as the Royals (Reading FC) mascot. Would he deal with it? Would he freak out? Would he struggle to understand what he was supposed to do?... but more importantly would I be there to see his big day?
Kyd has been a season ticket holder for 5 years and in that 5 years he has watched the players come and go. He's got heroes and he's got villains (mainly the Referee). He's seen triumphant wins and he's seen hideous losses. He's met the players and he's had the tours.... But never has he wanted anything more than to step on that pitch and kick a ball with the boys!
Thanks to FreeKicks, an amazing charity offering sick, disabled and underprivileged kids opportunities with their heroes on the pitch, Kyd was able to be Mascot at a game that meant a lot to him. The charity is run on a voluntary basis by Steve Thorpe and Sam Downing. Steve’s main responsibility is fund-raising as well as using his extensive media contacts to gain publicity. Sam is the Kick Co-ordinator, she liaises with clubs, hospitals and families to ensure that the children have a day to remember. The days out, which are called ‘kicks’, could involve being a team mascot, meeting a favourite player, tour of their chosen stadium, receiving a special gift or anything football related they can organise to make it a day they will never forget.
FreeKicks is a Peterborough based charity and they work closely with Peterborough United (known as 'The Posh'). We have close ties with the Posh too as a very close friend of mine, Phil Adlem, is their trusted Press officer of 10 years. Phil nominated Kyd to get his Kicks at the Royals vs Posh game as he knew Kyd would love it and that he would remember it forever more. Kyd was also mascot for the Challenge 42 world record breaking attempt done by other Posh and Royals fans who raised £1250 for Freekicks this summer, by playing a 42 hour non stop footy game... it was very tiring even to watch so they did so well to keep it up in the heat, we were very proud to be involved. If it wasn't for the funds raised at events such as this kids like Kyd wouldn't be able to get their Kicks so we are ever so grateful to all the boys (and girls) involved.
Kyd's day began as usual as he went to school all excited. My day began with several more pills and the announcement that I'd be OK to be there at the game for his big day.... but only if I wrapped up warm and took it easy... hard to do at a football game as I tend to shout a lot... but I agreed and was just relieved that I wasn't going to miss it.
He was picked up from school and as he entered the house to find his full kit and training gear, including boots ready and laid out on the sofa he began to get very excited. Today was the day! He ate his tea and got dressed into his kit.... included in that kit was a weather proof vest as it was the end of NOVEMBER and bloody freezing after all! Then with an excited squeal he got in the car ready for his adventure.
On arrival we met up with Gill Jacobs, the Royals mascot coordinator and Steve and Sam from FreeKicks at reception. We made our way upstairs and had a drink in one of the lounges. We got Kyd ready for his big moment and he received a few goodies from both FreeKicks and Reading FC. We made our way downstairs and here was where the fun started...
He started to get very excited. His rocking backward and forward excited movement began and his face became a picture. The smile melted my heart as he spotted Kingsley and then our manager Brian Mcdermott. We then went pitch side and with his training gear he put on his shiny new boots..... then that moment came.... I said 'you can go on the pitch now'... the reaction again melted my heart... 'Really?' he said with an amazed face... He must have thought I was lieing all these weeks when explaining what he was going to be doing there! As he walked on the pitch his face lit up. They kicked him the ball and he looked at me like he was asking for permission to kick it back... at this point he was just warming up with some of the staff so I couldn't wait for him to there with the players. He then returned into the tunnel, stripped down to just his kit and there he was... my little football star... looking all grown up.
There he was ready and waiting and the excited rocking backwards and forwards began all over again... but now it was because he was getting ready to go in the changing rooms and meet the players he'd watched for all these years!... I might add I wasn't allowed in the changing rooms, for obvious reasons! Which was devastating! Damn it!... He looked at me with a gleam in his eye and then walked in... I waited outside and when he returned he had a notepad full of signatures and a big black arm band on. This particular game we were doing a minutes applause for the late and tragic Gary Speed. Some of our players played for Gary speeds Welsh team and as respect to him the whole team were wearing their black arm bands in memory of the amazing footballer and man that he was. Noel Hunt thought that Kyd deserved to show his respect as much as the others as he was 'one of the boys' as he later tweeted (I am really grateful to Noel for making him feel so special he was so in love with that arm band he showed it to everybody!).
He was then ready to go out on the pitch, and as the team were being announced I could see Kyd standing there with our captain Jobi Mcanuff looking around like he was in heaven. He held on to his hand and made his way up the steps. All my fears were gone and here emerged THE most confident 9 year old ever to step out onto the pitch. He lined up with the team and walked the line to shake hands with the officials and the Posh boy's... a few of which he had met before. His little legs must have been freezing but the adrenaline was enough to keep cold out for that short time. As he reached the end of the line with Jobi by his side, he ran straight into the centre circle clapping his hands above is head like a real pro. From accounts of others in the stands he looked as though he played for them every week. Jobi kicked him the ball he stopped it and passed it back to him with great precision. I was being tweeted from left right and centre telling me how brilliant he was. He had his photo's taken and made his way off the pitch with Kingsley the Lion... We then stood for a minutes applause for the late Gary Speed pitch side. It was lovely to see everyone honour a man that had made such a difference in the football... however he died, whatever his mental state of mind, he lived for the game and we should all remember that mental health issues can affect anyone, both men and women, even those who seem to have everything... this is the sad reality we live in. RIP Gary Speed.
The smile and the enthusiasm beaming out of him, made standing in that cold winter chill well worth it. He was grinning from ear to ear. We made our way around the pitch to our seats where he changed out of his boots and put on layer after layer to keep him warm. Here is where the mascot package usually ends and we would watch the game and go home.... BUT Kyd had been given a special job for half time which would see us back by the tunnel picking the Golden Gamble tickets. He ran back around the pitch and waved at the players as they went for their half time team talk. Even the Posh players smiled and waved at him as I tried to stop him following them into the tunnel. Phil met us pitch side to see how Kyd was getting on and he beamed at him too. They announced Kyd's name and asked him to give the fans a wave. He waved at the west stand... then right back at his home boys in the East stand (where we sit)... the announcer thought this was brilliant and began to laugh over the microphone... he was acting like a celeb pressing the big button on the lottery! He picked out 2 tickets... both from the East stand! I was praying that he hadn't picked out any of our mates as that could've been seen as a fix... lol. But after a Hot chocolate and another wave to the crowd we returned to our seats ready for the second half....
I was shattered as I was still technically ill. He was shattered. The players were shattered. It was a long and exciting 3-2 finish. at the beginning of the game I had asked Kyd what the score was going to be... he said 3-1 and it looked like it was going to be 3-1 finish until Posh got a late last goal... ruined it for him... how very rude of them! We even managed to score in the first half breaking the first half 'No Goal' glitch we'd had ALL season! Making the fans ecstatic. If I'm honest Posh were the better side during the game but our boys brought it to a win for Gary Speed and for Kyd....
Just to add... I had tried to get Gabs Zakuani (one of the posh players) to score an own goal on Kyd's behalf and although he almost did in the first half, much to our delight and amusement.... he failed to see it into his own net! Boo Hiss Gabs you spoil sport! Maybe next time! lol... Gabs also gave us one of his #everydayimtackling t-shirts in which Kyd was sporting at the end of the game... thanks for that Gabs.
Kyd was named the 'Lucky Mascot', by his fellow fans and he sure felt lucky....
He was still beaming when we got home. We struggled to get his kit off him and he kept his black arm band in his hand as he fell asleep. Luckily he had no school the next day due to the strikes so he had a lie in. He was still excited as he woke up and as the Reading FC website added his photo's to his very own Gallery on their site and tweeted and facebooked about him, his excitement grew. I have never seen him act like such a Diva before, demanding to see the photo's again and again!
Here ends the story of Kyd's Kick. I managed to watch it without ending up back in hospital and Kyd... well, Kyd will love this day forever.
He would like to say thank you to all involved in FreeKicks, Challenge 42 and Reading FC. He loved the whole experience and it will be one he takes with him for the rest of his life. He would also like to thank Phil Adlam for all the support and for nominating him for the Kick, Noel Hunt for his all important black arm band and Jobi and the team for making him so comfortable on the pitch...
If you know anyone who you think deserves a Kick (not literally) or you'd like to fund raise for them don't hesitate to contact Steve or Sam at FreeKicks they would be happy to try and make their dreams come true- click here
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