Hospital visits, foodbanks & charity collections: how sport spreads festive cheer

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Oldham deliver surprise for young fan in hospital

'Tis the season for good will to all and the sporting world has been doing its bit to provide some Christmas cheer.

From opening stadium doors to the needy, helping feed the hungry, raising money for charity, delivering gifts to hospitals and even trying to help ease the strain on the National Health Service, there are plenty of ways clubs have got involved in their communities.

BBC Sport takes a look at some of this month's public-spirited activities.

'Nice to see them smile again'

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QPR give Grenfell Tower survivors a festive tour

Queens Park Rangers opened their doors to some of the survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire in an effort to give extra support ahead of their first Christmas since the disaster.

Youngsters and their parents went on a stadium tour, spent time with club legends and unwrapped gifts in the dressing rooms.

"To feel the love shown to our kids is fantastic," said father and survivor Karim Mussilhy.

"It's nice to see them smile again, it has been a while."

Ground open to the homeless

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Breakfast, a hot shower and warm place to seek refuge is what non-league FC United of Manchester will offer the city's homeless when they open the doors of their Broadhurst Park ground on Christmas Day.

The non-league club is working in partnership with The Homeless Manchester Project and Depaul UK, and will be open between 09:00 GMT and 14:00 GMT, with a minibus also made available to take people to the ground from Piccadilly Gardens in the city centre.

As well as their 'open door' initiative, FC United have also been collecting toys, winter coats and helping stock food banks.

Newborn baby hugs and a special Christmas visit

Sunderland manager Chris Coleman holds baby Logan Steel
Chris Coleman rocking a Sunderland Christmas jumper as he holds baby Logan Steel

Former Wales manager Chris Coleman started the festive season early by confirming he would take over at Sunderland while switching on the Christmas lights in Newport in November.

As Black Cats boss he has since been busy trying to improve results - and getting out and about in the community.

The Welshman drew praise from Jade Benton, mother of newborn Newcastle United fan Logan Steel, after the father of six held the poorly youngster during a visit to Sunderland Hospital.

Coleman and his players made a visit to Blackhall Colliery Primary School in Hartlepool a few days later - the school football-loving Bradley Lowery attended before he died aged six from a rare form of cancer in July.

Carols were sung, gifts handed out and a visit made to the school's permanent tribute to Bradley.

When Hazel met Heckingbottom

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Barnsley head coach Paul Heckingbottom visits patients at Barnsley Hospice.

When Hazel, a lifelong Barnsley fan now in hospice care, was surprised by Reds head coach Paul Heckingbottom, the emotion of what a festive visit can mean to people was clear to see.

For the second year, the entire Tykes squad visited the local hospice, spending time with patients, their families and staff.

"A lot of people connected to the hospice love football, it is a big part of our town," fundraising manager Sam Silverwood told BBC Sheffield.

"I was in the room when Hazel met Paul, it was so overwhelming with emotion. It was a special time to create that memory for her and her family."

A trophy and new baby to show off

Jake Webster's son Leo held by a resident of Newfield Lodge Care Home
Jake Webster's son Leo held during his visit to Newfield Lodge Care Home

When Castleford Tigers reached the Super League Grand Final in October, the residents of Newfield Lodge Care Home in West Yorkshire decorated the day room in support of their local rugby league heroes.

Tigers duo Mitch Clark and Jake Webster decided to say thank you by paying them a visit in the lead-up to Christmas, and bringing the 2017 League Leaders' Shield with them.

But neither the silverware, nor the players themselves ended up being the centre of attention.

Webster's young son Leo, dressed in a tiger-striped babygrow, was the main man, after the former New Zealand international decided to bring him along.

Running around the world... sort of

Amy Jones after her run
Amy Jones makes sure there is a very festive element to her post-run selfie

On Christmas Day, England Women's cricketers will be going on running in support of Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People.

It has become a tradition that centrally contracted players clock up 100km between them on 25 December, wherever they are in the world.

Be it Sydney or Slough, Hobart or Hull, the players will be pounding the streets and will post on social media to prove they have done their bit.

Christmas comes early for Forest fan as Robins mascot

Bristol City's Jamie Paterson leads Nottingham Forest fan Tyler Cove out onto the pitch at Ashton Gate
Tyler Cove walked onto the Ashton Gate pitch hand-in-hand with Jamie Paterson and father Andrew

Young Nottingham Forest fan Tyler Cove walked onto the pitch at Ashton Gate as Bristol City's guest of honour last week.

The three-year-old, who has Down's Syndrome, has struck up a friendship with City's former Forest player Jamie Paterson, as both are from Coventry.

Tyler "revelled in the attention and atmosphere" at Ashton Gate in what his father Andrew said felt like an "early Christmas present".

Bristol City's Jamie Paterson leads Nottingham Forest fan Tyler Cove out onto the pitch at Ashton Gate
Tyler remains a Forest fan, but is big Jamie Patterson supporter as well.

Vikings and the 'Flu Fighters'

Super League club Widnes have been supporting the NHS in the North West by producing a series of social media videos to promote winter health and help ease the strain on local services.

Earlier in the year, the club put their efforts into trying to educate the public on how to best use A&E, which helped produce a 7.2% reduction in local admissions.

Vikings players have not only featured in the videos, doing everything from rocking out as the 'Flu Fighters' and delivering helpful messages, they have also dropped in to see patients and staff that will be in hospital in the build-up to Christmas.

Wasps player visit Zoe's Hospice. From left, Danny Cipriani, Elaine Jakeman with baby James, Josh Bassett, Ben Harris, Claire Baines with baby Joel, Christian Wade
Wasps players spent time at Zoe's Hospice, visiting baby James and baby Joel (pictured left to right)

In the 15-man game, Premiership rugby side Wasps had a bucket collection at Saturday's league match against Gloucester to raise money for Zoe's Place Baby Hospice - a service for newborns to five-year-olds with life threatening or life limiting illnesses.

England international Danny Cipriani was also joined by Wasps team-mates Christian Wade, Josh Bassett and Ben Harris when they visited the hospice to raise awareness.

'An inspiring upswell in support from fans'

Leicester Tigers development squad players cooked for and served up meals for for Leicester’s The Bridge - Homelessness To Hope charity
Leicester Tigers development squad players cooked for and served up meals for Leicester’s The Bridge - Homelessness To Hope charity

One of the United Kingdom's largest food charities expects record numbers of children to be fed by food banks this Christmas.

And The Trussell Trust is "grateful" for the difference that sports clubs and their fans are making.

There have been tinned food collections at stadiums across the country, with players delivering parcels personally to charities, while others have even cooked up and dished up food for the needy.

"This year we've seen a truly inspiring upswell in support from sport fans and clubs to their local food bank," said Samantha Stapley, the Trust's head of operations.

"Given the strong anchoring of clubs within their communities, it's perhaps no surprise to see so many positive relationships grow with food banks, whose work to stop people going hungry is similarly rooted in their local area.

"As our network looks ahead to the New Year, against a backdrop of record food bank referrals, we are very grateful for this impressive cross-community dedication, which will make a real difference to food banks' ability to provide emergency food and additional support when people are referred in crisis."

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