As the year 2022 comes to an end, it’s a time to reflect on the huge range and influence of the projects delivered by Wolves Foundation, to people of all ages and abilities across the core areas of health and wellbeing, inclusion and cohesion and education and skills.
Here is just a snapshot of some of the activities delivered, and memories made, over the last 12 months.
There was a really positive start for the year when the Foundation’s video with a young Premier League Kicks participant Logan was named as one of Fosun Group’s ‘Top 10 Outstanding Charity Projects for 2021’. The video story highlighted problems Logan had endured with bullying and a surprise meeting with then Wolves skipper Conor Coady, which took place as part of Anti-Bullying week.
It was also time to reflect on the first year of the ground-breaking Feed Our Pack project, which had seen over 50,000 meals distributed across the community, over 2,000 food parcels given out during the school holidays and a further 1,000 meals delivered to a local school thanks to a link with the His Church charity.
And, in the first of several former player visits which took place during the year, Wolves former players and still fan favourites John Richards, Geoff Palmer, Terry Wharton and Steve Daley attended a Molineux Memories session to tell stories and answer questions.
In February we marked the 15th anniversary of the Premier League Kicks project by featuring the story of Matt Elcock, who started out attending a session as a participant many years ago before progressing all the way through to working for the Foundation and delivering those very same sessions. “To go through the journey that I have been on makes me feel very proud and all I try to do now is help and encourage young people in the same way that the coaches once encouraged me,” said Matt.
Another one to inspire is Wolves goalkeeper Jose Sa, and he popped in with his partner and daughter to a Healthy Goals session for pre-school children and their parents/guardians. Sa showed his storytelling talents by reading, ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ to the young guests after which they were encouraged to prepare their own ‘caterpillars’ in the form of healthy fruit skewers!
The Foundation also linked up with the Mental Health Foundation to produce and publish a 36-page booklet entitled ‘It’s Okay To Talk’ as a valuable resource to promote good mental health and wellbeing.
March heralded celebrations for Wolves Disability Under-16s, who marked their first ever season in the Staffordshire Ability Counts League – by winning the title! A season-long tussle with Burntwood-based Midland Soccer Academy went right to the wire over the final fixtures at Burton Albion, with Wolves prevailing on goal difference to claim the crown, by the margin of one goal!
Elsewhere Wolves Foundation ambassador and former promotion-winning captain Karl Henry delivered a coaching session as part of the enrichment opportunities on offer to students on the Foundation’s BTEC course at the City of Wolverhampton College. “There were some really good young lads who were listening and learning and I’m sure a few of them will have bright futures in the game,” said Henry.
The Foundation’s Arena at Aldersley is regularly a hive of activity and that was the case again when hosting the first stage of a national schools’ competition featuring almost 600 pupils. The Premier League Primary Stars tournament is one of the most prestigious on the schools’ calendar and, with a place in the final at Watford’s Vicarage Road up for grabs, the Foundation welcomed pupils from Years Five and Six across the city to battle it out.
There was more silverware for Wolves Disability FC in April, with the adult team continuing the theme of success by lifting the League Cup at St George’s Park. Victory was secured thanks to winning a penalty shootout in the final against Stoke.
A concentrated day of player visits also saw members of Wolves’ first team squad get out and about to support Foundation projects. Raul Jimenez and Conor Coady attended a Feed Our Pack cooking class at The Way, John Ruddy, Luke Cundle and Chem Campbell headed to a Soccer School at Aldersley Arena, Toti Gomes and Daniel Podence got active at a PL Kicks session at West Park, and Marcal and Romain Saiss popped into a Healthy Goals gathering at Molineux.
Also during April, Wolves Foundation’s Finance Manager Zulf Khan shared his story of life as a Muslim during the Holy Month of Ramadan. Zulf described how he is able to combine prayer and fasting with continuing his job, and the support he receives from the club in doing so.
May saw the eagerly-awaited return of one of the highlights of the Foundation year – the annual focus fixture. Wolves’ final home Premier League game of the season offered the opportunity for the Foundation to showcase its range of projects and community support to the Molineux faithful. And that included the popular return of the half time Wolves Disability FC game as they took on their Norwich counterparts.
Also in May, as Wolves men’s and women’s seasons came to their respective conclusions, respective goalkeepers Jose Sa and Shan Turner – who works as a Schools Officer for the Foundation – were crowned PFA Community Players of the Year for their community-minded work across the campaign.
Meanwhile, as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations loomed into view, Molineux Memories staged their own Jubilee party including crafts, cake and coffee while Head 4 Health participants planted some Jubilee Roses from David Austin Roses in one of the flowerbeds on the ramp outside Molineux.
The club football season may have finished but the Foundation’s work carried on through the summer. And that included swapping Wolves for England as staff oversaw a trip for 182 participants from the PL Kicks project to the international team’s game with Italy. “For many of the young people, they would never get the opportunity to watch England play, and to see the national team at Molineux made it extra special,” said Inclusion & Cohesion Manager, Luke Shearing.
Meanwhile the Active Through Football project, designed to help targeted communities become more active, continued to spread its net including the launch of a ‘Power Hour’ fitness session for females and a new Adult Disability Hub.
There were also celebrations across the month, firstly for Bantock Primary School teacher Luke Craze – named as Wolves’ Primary Stars superstar – and also the Foundation themselves, who lifted the West Midlands Pride Cup in a special tournament held to celebrate LGBT+ inclusion in sport.
July began with renowned music producer and artist S-X – a Wolves Foundation ambassador – putting his creative talents to work as part of a graffiti project with Birmingham-based ‘Panda’, spray-painting the wall of the Good Shepherd charity opposite Molineux. S-X, real name Sam, joined participants from the PL Kicks project in spreading some positive messages to boost those attending the charity on a day-to-day basis. “We didn’t have anything like Premier League Kicks when I was growing up, so to be able to come here and be hands on with the kids is unreal,” he said.
Back at Molineux the Foundation’s Education team were delighted to get involved in a special BBC Young Reporter Day at the stadium. Over 80 Year Ten students from seven local secondary schools were given a unique insight into the media industry from guests including BBC WM’s Wolves commentator Mike Taylor, BBC presenter Amber Sandhu and Wolves’ video manager Yannie Makarounas.
Meanwhile students from Heath Park School attended the final ‘Strike A Change’ session of the season, the project run by the Cyrille Regis Legacy Trust encouraging young people to develop a range of qualities as part of the ‘Cyrille Standard’, an acronym relating to Cyrille’s first name. The final meet-up at Coventry City included a powerful testimony from Stuart Lawrence, brother of Stephen Lawrence, who was murdered in a racially-motivated attack in London in 1993.
The pre-season residential for our BTEC Football & Education College Academy was back in August with cohorts of 16 and 17-year-olds enjoying the chance to develop their skills and teamwork during programmes run by Wolves Foundation. The first week was spent on a residential at the Kibblestone International Scout Camp near Stone, before the second week, based at Molineux, designing and delivering a social action project.
There was also plenty of excitement amongst participants at the Premier League Kicks session in Heath Town Park, as the Premier League trophy was on show. As part of the league’s 30th anniversary, the trophy was being taken on tour across the country, along with each club naming its own ‘Community Captain’. That accolade went to Matt Elcock, marking his outstanding contribution to the club and local community.
Elsewhere another session was added to the Active Through Football initiative with the New Park Village Football Development project run by former Wolves player Joe Jackson adding an 18 to 30-year-old session to the overall portfolio.
September was World Alzheimer’s Month, where the Foundation highlighted the value and importance of its Molineux Memories group for people diagnosed with dementia and their carers. The importance of the group was shown in the words of one of the helpers who had been talking with a participant. “I remember one occasion when I was showing a gentleman a programme which had the surnames of Wolves legends such as Wright, Flowers and Clamp,” he said. “All of a sudden, he started telling me the first names – Bill, Ron and Eddie – and his wife, also his carer, was almost in tears at the thought of those memories coming back.”
Meanwhile as football prepared to mark its annual Play Safe weekend, driving greater awareness of the safeguarding practice and culture within clubs, the Foundation supported Wolves’ first ever designated Safeguarding Week, raising the profile of how the club support and keep children, young people and vulnerable adults safe when engaging with the club.
Also in September the Foundation put the finishing touches to its rebrand, designed with a view to reinforcing the connection with Wolves but also maintaining and defining the charity’s own identity. The rebrand and new strategy, which followed consultation with staff, volunteers, the club and partners, was produced after an extensive ‘Theory of Change’ process aimed at freshening up the Foundation’s style and tone of voice.
October saw Wolves first team players Adama Traore and Toti Gomes visit students at St Peter’s Collegiate Academy as part of the club and Foundation’s support for the Premier League’s No Room For Racism campaign. The event, based around equality, diversity and inclusion, was delivered to around 200 Year 9 students and included a Q&A session hosted by Wolves Foundation ambassador and Sky Sports presenter Johnny Phillips. “It’s a really tough fight to battle racism and initiatives like No Room For Racism and other activities that the Wolves Foundation run help that,” said Phillips.
Defender Nathan Collins and midfielder Connor Ronan also paid a visit to Bantock Primary School, taking part in a PE lesson with pupils, while Nelson Semedo and Goncalo Guedes surprised Wolves Disability FC youngsters at our a Halloween open training session.
On the day of the month in which Wolves’ most successful ever manager Stan Cullis had been born in the year 1916, the Foundation reflected on a recent surprise birthday celebration staged for one of his relatives. Betty Day, a second cousin to Stan, marked her landmark 100th birthday by attending a Molineux Memories session to chat about all things Cullis and Wolves, as well as enjoying a tour of the stadium and seeing his statue for the very first time.
The month also witnessed an accolade of a different kind for Foundation degree student Lewis Yarnold, who is also spending time gaining experience working in primary and secondary schools. Lewis became the second recipient of the ‘Ian Millard Award for Outstanding Educational Achievement, in tribute to the former Foundation trustee and City of Wolverhampton College principal.
All eyes in November were on the night of Friday, November 18th, particularly the weather, as approximately 150 people braved the elements by sleeping under the stars in the Stan Cullis Stand. Yes, the annual Molineux Sleepout took place, raising funds and awareness of the wide range of work carried out by Wolves Foundation and the Good Shepherd supporting vulnerable people across the city. It was another fantastic event attended by many local dignitaries, which raised in excess of £50,000 to be split between the two charities.
It was slightly warmer for a couple of other successful events during the month, including pupils from SS Peter and Paul Primary Academy attending a Bullseye Maths session delivered by Room 180 Academy at Aldersley. The session was the result of a link-up between the Foundation and the Professional Darts Corporation, teaching primary school pupils maths skills using the power of darts as the Grand Slam tournament returned to the city.
Meanwhile several participants from the Foundation’s Head 4 Health project hit the cooking bullseye instead, teaming up with Wolves Head Chef Luke Hitchins and the club’s official catering partners Levy UK to rustle up a lovely two course dinner. Featured during International Stress Awareness Week, the cooking session offered a reminder of the value of Head 4 Health in giving participants the opportunity to get together and share in activities to help reduce stress and produce a positive outlook.
Former Wolves midfielder Steve Daley supported several Foundation events during 2022, and rounded off the year by attending a special session put on by the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust to raise awareness surrounding prostate cancer. Daley, who had been treated for prostate cancer earlier in the year, joined health specialists in speaking to 30 men to highlight potential symptoms of the cancer and the importance of early detection. Daley said: “Because I went to the doctor when I knew something wasn’t right the early diagnosis probably ended up saving my life, and I would encourage men who have any concerns, or just want to find out more information about what to look out for, to always ask for help.”
December meanwhile proved another busy time for a host of Christmas-based activities across the entire Foundation delivery, with groups across the age range from Healthy Goals to Wolves Elders marking the festive season with various fun and games! The Elders’ Christmas party, which included participants from Molineux Memories, included former Wolves striker Mel Eves enjoying a new calling – quite literally – as he became a bingo caller for the afternoon.
Meanwhile the return of the Annual Shoebox appeal where the Foundation co-ordinate a range of gifts to be passed on to children across the city via several local charities, proved an extraordinary success. Individuals and businesses from throughout Wolverhampton and surrounding areas backed the initiative to such an extent that almost 1,000 gifts were collected and distributed. A really heart-warming way to end 2022.
On behalf of everyone connected with Wolves Foundation, thank you so much for your support during 2022, and wishing you a happy and healthy New Year.