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Families united through football enjoy Stadium of Light graduation.

Byline: Eleanor Steafel Reporter

APROJECT uniting parents and their children through football has been celebrating its success.

Sunderland AFC yesterday opened its doors to 250 families who took part in the club's Family Learning through Football programme.

At a special graduation ceremony at the Stadium of Light, children and parents from across the region received medals and prizes for completing a course run by the club's Foundation of Light charity.

The course, which runs over a 10-week period, sees families from across the North East participate in activities designed to bring kids and parents together with fun exercises in the classroom and on the pitch.

Matt Hill, acting director of families at the charity, said the course offered parents the chance to spend time with their kids.

He said: "They work on various topics throughout the course - the adults will come in and have sessions on things like mental health and healthy living, while the kids have sessions on teamwork and confidence, and learn about things like maths through games.

"Then they all join up to do some exercise together. The activities are all centred around family, with football as the hook.

It's been a "They're all held in primary schools and it's just great for the kids to have their mums and dads at school so they can spend a bit of extra time with them."

great day - everyone has got a certificate and the kids have at the graduation ceremony, held at Sunderland's stadium on Tuesday, children and parents received prizes and certifi-cates before going on a tour of the stadium.

all got medals Matt Hill Four-year-old Jayden Kenny, who has been going to the charity's 'Little Dribblers' classes, won a signed Sunderland top in the raffle.

Jayden said he had a great day at the stadium. "Getting the signed shirt was the best bit because Sunderland are my favourite," he said.

Josie Adamson, nine, said getting a tour of the stadium was her favourite part of the day. She said: "Coming out on to the pitch was the best bit because my Nanna was buried here so it makes me feel really happy to be here."

Josie's brother Logan, three, who wore a Sunderland shirt every day before he started going to school, said he liked seeing where the players got ready. He said: " I liked going in the changing rooms with all the Sunder-land strips."

The children, along with their families, all received complimentary tickets to see Sunderland play as a reward for finishing the course.

Matt said it was important to recognise their achievements. He said: "We feel it's important to celebrate what they've achieved as they've all worked really hard throughout the course.

"It's been a great day - everyone has got a certificate and the kids have all got medals. Some of them have won prizes in the raffle too.

"But even if they didn't win prizes, they'll all get the chance to come to a Sunderland game with free tickets for every family that completed the course."

The charity, which is supported by Sunderland AFC, helps more than 42,000 young people and their families every year via a wide range

of education, sports, health and community programmes across the North East.

Matt said they try to make sure their work reaches out to the community.

He said: "The brand is quite attractive to people, and football is such a huge thing in the North East, whatever team you support.

"A lot of dads really like it because of the football element.

"We offer a lot of opportunities to progress year after year as we want families to stay with us and progress through the courses.

"People of all ages can get involved, from our Little Dribblers at 18 months to their grandparents."

Graduation ceremonies will be held at the club throughout the next couple of weeks for all 2000 families who have taken part in this year's scheme.

It's been a great day - everyone has got a certificate and the kids have all got medalsMatt Hill


Morgan Dixon (4) and Alisha Michiels (4), from Bernard Gilpin Primary <B School, at the Foundation of Light graduation

Jayden Kenny (4) from Diamond Hall Primary School <B

Schoolchildren have their pictures taken in the tunnel at the Stadium of Light

Schoolchildren and parents at the Foundation of Light graduation at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland

Iain Buist
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Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Nov 26, 2014
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