Let me begin by giving a HUGE thank you to all who have supported the Foundation this year, without your retweets, facebook shares, support and encouragement the Foundation would not be where it is today.
I would also like to take a moment to thank the Trustees of the Foundation who spend their own time encouraging and guiding the Charity. Thank you to Paul Soderman who stepped down as a Trustee in 2023 and to Mike Crawshaw who took on the role. Thank you to all who volunteer for, and with the Foundation including our wonderful matchday ballboys and ballgirls who do a great job each game.
Thank you to the funders who help us be sustainable as a new, growing and thriving Charity, the National League Trust, Happiness Hubs, the Durham Police and Crime Commissioner, People’s Postcode Lottery, Sported and County Durham Foundation amongst others.
Finally, a thank you to all of our fantastic coaches especially Willian Olimpio who will sadly be moving back to Brazil at the end of January. You will be missed. If 2022 was a year of establishing the Foundation then 2023 has been a year of growth from 3 weekly projects at the end of 2022 to 8 at the end of 2023!
In January, our previous assistant Sam Pascoe left to go and work for a smaller team than Darlington called Manchester City in less salubrious surroundings of Egypt. This led us to employ Willian Olimpio, a semi-professional footballer originally from Brazil. Willian helped us to continue the work at Think With Your Feet (TWYF), where we play football to promote positive Mental Health each Tuesday afternoon. As part of the growth of TWYF, we played two eleven-a-side matches this year. Firstly v Teesside Emirtus, a spirited 5-5 draw in August (full game available on YouTube) followed by a team from Darlington in November which was another 5-5 draw! The TWYF chaps might be surprised to hear that I scored a hat-trick and two assists in both of those games as I haven't mentioned it too much!! (Josh - you know where I am.)
Willian also took on the leading of Women’s Recreational Football, this is one area where we have seen a huge improvement in the standard and the fitness of the women who attend. There is a real community feeling amongst the women evident at our Christmas Night out together!
Willian has a background in working with children with additional needs so it was great to be able to offer football classes in school time to children who might otherwise find things difficult. We were able to offer this initially to Abbey Junior and Harrowgate Hill and then to Rydal Academy. Our Schools work continued with after-schools clubs starting in Hurworth Primary where Willian taught Futsal and in Northwood Primary too. Later on in the year, we were able to spread our net further afield as Darlington FC's very own Mitchell Curry began to lead an after-school club out in Barnard Castle for the Foundation.
At Easter we held Holiday Camps which were very successful and we also began working with Darlington Assistance for Refugees establishing football for those who work with DAR.
In July with the support of the Police and Crime Commissioner were able to launch Thursday Youth Football at Education Village unsurprisingly on a Thursday. Sessions have been well attended and continue to grow to the point we made need to seek funding for a second session!
We also ran a six-week course called Free Steps to Fitness with Physique Health Club and Darlington Baptist Church as we enabled those who would find finances a barrier to physical exercise to partake in six-weeks’ worth of classes with a discounted membership following for those who completed the course.
In the Summer Holidays, there were more football camps this time at Blackwell Meadows and in September we launched Weight Goals, football for those with a BMI of 30+. With the support of Tees Valley Sport and Move More Darlington, we offer one-hour of low-intensity football followed by 30 minutes of healthy living advice. Watch out for this potentially branching out into an evening session in 2024.
I delivered over twenty assemblies in local schools this term as we gave out FREE Darlington Season Tickets to all schools in the Darlington Area (and a couple further afield)! And of course the Matchday Experience saw over 300 children attend a match, receive coaching, a goodie bag, packed lunch and take penalties at Half Time throughout the year. Matchday Mascots also became part of the Foundation responsibility in 2023.
One of the highlights of the year was being able to support one of our young coaches, Nicole Graham, to organise and lead a free Holiday Camp in October sponsored by SPORTED for children from five selected schools in Darlington.
In October half term, yet more Holiday clubs followed alongside one of my particular highlights of the year which was our DFC Foundation Awards Night. It was great to see over 70 participants and their family and friends come along to celebrate their achievements. Well done to each of the award winners who have contributed so much to what the Foundation is able to do.
Then in November, we held our two tournaments for the National League Trust U11s Cup at which Mowden and St Augustine’s were successful.
Our hopes for 2024 include, increasing our schools work, beginning a parent and toddler football group, starting an evening Weight Goals and re-establishing Junior Quakers amongst many other things. At the rate we are growing though we do need more funds to continue being successful. If you can help in any way through a business or individual sponsorship, I would love to hear from you.
May I take this opportunity to wish you all the best for 2024.