Terrier has his mind on helping out

editorial image

A busy accountant, a married dad-of-three, a football club chairman and a champion for mental health awareness - Damian Kitson is a busy man.

On top of his finance role with Asda, Damian, from Treeton, Rotherham, spends his time ensuring that 200 children play football each week.

When he was made chairman of Treeton Terriers there were seven teams and 100 children playing for the club. Today there is a thriving nursery academy, 10 junior teams and 2 adult teams.

But he also spends his time trying to remove the stigma surrounding mental health.

Having suffered a mental illness himself in 2004, which saw him hospitalised, he was awarded ‘Employee of the Year’ at the national ‘Excellence in Diversity’ awards for his efforts to encourage a culture where everyone in the workplace feels equal.

Damian is training for his second London Marathon to raise money for the mental health charity Mind.

HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN GRASSROOTS FOOTBALL?

Since my kids were young I have always been involved and eventually with a twist of my arm I took up a coaching position for my eldest lad’s team. When the position of chairman came up I decided to put my name forward because I felt I could make a difference.

WHAT INSPIRES YOU TO GET INVOLVED IN COMMUNITY WORK?

At Treeton Terriers our vision is simply ‘to enable as many kids as possible, from all genders, all ethnic backgrounds to participate in football safely’.

I believe that happy kids play happy football and by creating a safe learning environment, investing in the kids and our facilities, we have seen the enjoyment and numbers increase.

As I have come out of the other end of my mental illness I have tried to raise awareness both in work and outside of work and have completed two Great North Runs and the 2014 London Marathon, raising money for Mind. I have been amazed at the support from my wider friends as I have shared my story and know somewhere it will have made a difference to someone.

DESCRIBE A TYPICAL DAY IN YOUR COMMUNITY ROLES

When you have a busy day job and want to make a difference in your local community, at times balancing the two can be difficult. I keep it fairly simple and try to give my personal energy, enthusiasm and a level of structure to what we do. We have a fantastic committee and a great group of managers and volunteers, all who have a similar passion, so by simply sharing a simple vision for us to work to it helps all of us make a difference which is the main reason we are in it. Oh and be available to answer the phone twice a day for a question, query or just a chat.

WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR HIGHLIGHTS OVER THE YEARS AND WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND MOST REWARDING?

Bringing mental health into the open at work has had a positive impact on others and to see others recover because they know they are not on their own is the most rewarding. Creating a foundational structure within the football club with many other like minded people, which is fit for the future, has also been rewarding.

WHAT KEEPS YOU GOING DURING A HARD WEEK?

Balance. Making sure that whilst I have lots on, I have enough of everything to give me the energy to keep everything moving. Exercise, time with the family and a bit of fun always help to balance the workload.

WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE IN YOUR ROLE AS FOOTBALL CLUB CHAIRMAN AND MENTAL HEALTH CHAMPION?

I want to hopefully ignite future ambassadors within both arenas so that they continue to have a positive impact well after I have moved on. Leaving a solid structure and way of working, with a clear vision will be the hardest part to achieve this.

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO SOMEBODY CONSIDERING COMMUNITY WORK - IS IT WORTH IT?

To me there is no better feeling than when you know you have made a difference to someone else and made their life a little bit more enjoyable or a little easier.

* Visit www.mindontherun.co.uk