Gillingham Ladies bring Christmas cheer to children

Gillingham captain Vicky Ashton-Jones presents a hamper to staff at Medway Maritime Hospital

Captain Vicky Ashton-Jones presents a hamper to hospital staff (Photo: Julian Hart)

The run-up to Christmas is invariably hectic – and the final Saturday before the big day especially so.

And when you’ve got a big game 24 hours later, you’d almost have to be a saint to put yourself out to spend a couple of precious hours with people you don’t even know.

But that’s what players and representatives from WPL South leaders Gillingham did yesterday as they gave up their Saturday morning to visit the children’s ward at Medway Maritime Hospital.

They’re not alone. Players from other clubs around the UK no doubt did the same.

But it’s a true measure of what a community club really means – and speaks volumes for the set-up at Gillingham.

A number of players, coaches and staff visited the hospital, taking goody bags from the club and other gifts from the FA, Kent FA, Canterbury Rugby Club, Kent Sports News and clothing supplier Lea Ray.

Thrill for players

They toured the ward, spending time with the youngsters and chatting to parents and staff, to whom they presented a hamper.

It brought a smile to the children’s faces and appreciation from the adults. But it clearly thrilled the club’s personnel, too.

Action from Lewes v Gillingham on December 8 2013

It’s not just on the pitch that the Gills are proving a hit (Photo: James Boyes)

Director of football Bill Long said: “It’s very important that the club pays back to the local community, and today was a perfect opportunity to do so.

“We had a wonderful morning, the children and parents were thrilled with their gifts, and importantly, we wanted to pay tribute to the staff who play such an important role during the festive period.”

The players, too, clearly revelled in the visit, judging by some of the comments they made afterwards.

Alex Fagan tweeted: “I’m proud to be apart of the best team in kent! @gillsladiesfc Such a quality bunch of girls #gillsfamily #doingbits.”

Team-mate Jay Blackie tweeted: “Such a great weekend so far! @gillsladiesfc Xmas party and delivering presents to children at Medway hospital #specialmoments #proud #smiles.”

And Charlotte Richardson wrote: “Proud to have been a part of @gillsladiesfc visit to Medway Maritime Hospital where we met some amazing kids & staff.”

As it happened, the Gills’ game with Lewes was called off, so those players who made the effort had the chance to claw back some of their time.

But their gestures have drawn widespread praise, and added to the number of admirers of a team that is clearly wowing them off the pitch as well as on it.

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