February was a busy month for Sports Connections Foundation, our ProKick Schools Challenges are in full swing, our Inspire Through Sport Programme is doing incredible work in the Huntingdon area and we were also able to grant TWO Sporting Wishes! As you will have seen last week we met Shane as we watched his team West Bromwich Albion play Sheffield United and on the 27th of Feb we met an incredible young man, Josh, and his dad Idzik.
Josh is 16 and is from Wisbech, he has Melas syndrome which is a degenerative neurological disorder and he has spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals since his symptoms started in September 2017. He was admitted to Hospital for 5 months for investigations until a diagnosis was confirmed, and due to his disease he is at risk of strokes. Josh has been such a brave young man throughout this time and is now in a much more stable condition, he has even started back at college where he is taking a motor mechanic course! Thanks to medication his seizures are much more effectively controlled and after a spate of temporary blindness, his sight has returned. Although there are still some risks for Josh he is very keen to live the normal life most 16 year old boys have, including an upcoming trip to Comic-Con with his sister that he was very excited to tell me all about!
Myself and our Sporting Wish co-ordinator Jane drove to Wisbech to pick Josh and Idzik up and then we made the trip down to Islington so that they could not only watch Josh's beloved Arsenal play Bournemouth, in the VIP section, but to also get a tour of the Emirates stadium whilst accompanied by Charity Champion Gareth, who was later joined by our Charity Director Junior for the game. They also had the privilege of staying at the Hilton Hotel in Islington afterwards.
Here are a selection of pictures from the Emirates Stadium tour Josh was lucky enough to go on before the game!
It took Arsenal just 4 minutes to take the lead through Mesut Ozil and this was followed by a second goal in the 27th minute courtesy of Henrikh Mkhitaryan (the player Josh chose to have on the back of his new Arsenal shirt!) now whilst Bournemouth clawed a goal back before half time the damage to their hopes of an equaliser were hit again when Laurent Kochielny scored at the beginning of the second half. Arsenal went on to get a further 2 goals to bring the scoreline at full time to a 5-1 win for the Gunners, a result none of us saw coming when we did some pre-match predictions over dinner!
Gareth told us that Josh grew in confidence during the day and after the match he couldn’t stop smiling, which must have been aided by the incredible result Arsenal picked up.
An added bonus for Josh was that Arsenal legend, and SCF Ambassador, Nigel Winterburn made an appearance as well, signing a shirt for Josh, posing for pictures and being a great host that made the night even more special.
The day afterwards we received a wonderful message from Josh's mum Talitha who told us the 'Josh came home full of excitement about the tour, and meeting so many amazing people. He was most enthusiastic about his shirts and signed photograph too!'
Thank you for the wonderful memories Josh and his father now have of a brilliant experience. - Talitha (Josh's mum)
Josh's bravery and courage is inspirational and he thoroughly deserved to receive this Sporting Wish and so I'd like to say a huge thank you to Nigel, Gareth, Jane and Junior for the parts they all played in making Josh's evening so special!
As is the case with every Sporting Wish we can grant, a very special thank you to all of you that have helped us raise the funds that allow evenings such as this to happen.