Sheffield Wednesday should be praised for efforts in helping its community
Sheffield Wednesday have been commended for their efforts in making the dreams of an armed forces veteran come true.
The club laid on a VIP welcome to lifelong Wednesdayite Richard Parker providing him the chance to fulfil the lifelong dream of scoring at Hillsborough’s Kop end and mix it with some very special guests; club captain Barry Bannan and two-time player of the year Keiren Westwood.
Richard spent 21 years in the Army, undertaking tours of Iraq, Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Kosovo.
While on tour in Iraq in 2006 he was involved in a life-changing incident that took the life of colleagues and left him 60 per cent disabled. It took Richard three years to regain the ability to walk.
“It destroyed me,” he said. “Football and the Army is my great love, it always has been and always will be.
“I’ve had tears through my Army career, I’ve had tears with Wednesday and I’d like to think being a Wednesdayite gave me the strength I needed to be in the Army, just to carry on and keep going.”
Richard was dealt a blow earlier this year when he was told that as part of his ongoing recovery, the lower part of his leg would have to be amputated.
“It’s definitely gutting,” he said. “I’d just got back into walking football with Wednesday with a fantastic group of lads. From a mental health side, there’s no better way than getting together with another bunch of lads and having a little kickabout.
“I always thought one day I’ll come back to Hillsborough, get on the pitch and bang in a goal in at the Kop end.
“When I was told about my leg, I thought that was the dream dashed.”
Enter Wednesday, who organised for Richard to take shots at Westwood and fulfil his dream. A video released by the club prompted a huge response on social media, with thousands extending messages of goodwill to Richard and his family.
Richard’s day out is one of countless efforts the club continues to provide its community with support through difficult times.
The club and Community Programme have been praised for their efforts throughout the coronavirus crisis in particular, assisting vulnerable supporters and members of the community.
The club’s Community Programme have done stellar work alongside the Refugee Council to provide help and support to refugees and asylum seekers arriving in Sheffield, providing weekly football sessions in conjunction with Sheffield City Council and Yorkshire Sport
The SWFCCP have donated over 40 football kits to reduce the barriers to access for these sessions.
Players and staff have taken it upon themselves to issue messages of support to those in need and the club has raised nearly £27,000 for worthwhile causes, packages have been delivered to the vulnerable and so much more that has been completed away from the public eye.
Last month academy coach Lee Bullen received an award for his efforts in reaching out to Wednesday fan Sid Gavrielides, who had posted about his struggles with mental health on social media.