Members of the playing staff and community trust out in force at Parkwood Youth Centre
Four members of the Gillingham first team squad attended Parkwood Youth Centre on Tuesday afternoon as part of a Community Open Day at the venue.
In a joint project involving the centre and Kent Police, over a hundred youngsters were in attendance to take part in various activities and challenges, many of which organised by the club’s community trust who were there all day to support the event.
These included a free-kick competition where certain targets had to be hit to win a prize, a cross bar challenge where teams progressed to the next stage by hitting the upright, and a `Beat the Goalie` tournament in a simple penalty shootout decider.
It was the centre’s second `action day` of the calendar year, with the aim of ensuring youngsters worked with the police and become part of the community to reduce the anti-social behaviour figures in and around the area.
Cody McDonald, Joe Martin, Chris Whelpdale and Charlie Lee all arrived together just after 1.30pm – they signed a number of autographs and posed for some photos before Charlie revealed the winner of the raffle, the prize being a signed football by the entire first team squad.
All players were flattered to have been asked to attend and took time out to speak to the club website, Cody McDonald saying:
“It’s nice to come out and see the kids and their families. It’s always good to give something back to the community and we enjoy supporting events like this.
“It’s great to see them enjoying themselves and being around other young people.”
Full back Joe Martin added: “Days like this are brilliant as it gets the kids active and gives them something to do over the holidays, and the people that work hard to put these days on deserve a lot of praise.”
The event itself was organised by local Police Community Support Officer Sean Richards and Youth Centre Manager Jeanette Knight, and both were delighted with the amount of people who attended.
Sean said: “Parkwood is an area which is made up of a large portion of young people and families – we saw a rise at the start of the year in anti-social behaviour, and as a result we linked up with the centre to tackle the problem head on.”
Jeanette Knight added: “It’s about encouraging young people to work with the police rather than against them. I know the young people in the area so I already have those relationships in place.
“It’s about bringing the whole community together and it’s great to get the players involved – it’s our local team and the young people want to engage with them.”
Also in attendance was Councillor Mike O’Brien who is a Portfolio Holder for Children's Services on Medway Council, and he thanked the club for having such a strong presence and paid tribute to Sean and Jeanette for making the day possible.
He said: “One of the major draws is that Gillingham are participating and we are grateful to the club for supporting the initiative.
“It is the second time this year that Sean and Jeanette have organised it and it is very, very popular and the children are enjoying themselves and having fun.
“Gillingham Football Club is very much a part of the community and everyone was extremely pleased to see their representatives here.”
The players and members of the Gills community trust watched on as some of the youngsters organised a small sided game of football, and Chris Whelpdale said it was a good opportunity for them to discover that footballers are normal people away from their everyday jobs.
He said: “It was a really nice day - it shows that we are normal people and they can come and chat to us whenever they like – it’s good for us to go and meet these people, along with their families and they look up to us so these visits are important.”
Charlie Lee said the members of staff with the community team had done a great job and said their dedication behind the scenes is vital for the football club.
He said: “They do a lot of hard work and they deserve a lot of credit and the future of the club is here – days like this are good for the fans and the players – we enjoy it!”
You can see a selection of images from the day using the scroll bar at the top of this page.
here.To find out more about the GFC Community Trust and other projects the club get involved with, please click
To watch our video from the event click here.