In May this year the absolutely incredible Didcot Town Under 7s Whites football team stole everyone’s hearts by taking part in a brilliant fundraising challenge in aid of Restore.
Coach, Daz King, kept us up-to-date with their progress, and we were bowled over by their cute faces and huge smiles as they gave their all to the challenge, eventually raising more than £1,370 for us.
We caught up with Daz to find out how they came up with the idea, and their journey.
The Didcot Town Under 7s Whites were keeping themselves active during lockdown and regular zoom meetings on a Saturday had seen us do quizzes, guess the baby picture (parents and boys), and even a Didcot Town Under 7s Got Talent.
We were looking for more ideas to keep the boy’s brains active during lockdown. Our young coach Bradley would regularly give the boys some training ideas to do in their gardens. This kept the boys active, and fellow manager Adam got the boys to send in a short clip of them doing keep ups, and we made a short video clipped together so it looked like they were passing the ball on.
One parent posted on Facebook showing that his son had completed a 5km run, and thus the challenge was born. At the next zoom meeting, I set the challenge. Between us as a squad, the boys would attempt 300km either running, walking, or cycling over a two-week period and hopefully raise £300. With a squad of 11 boys, as well as both managers and coach, it meant we had to do just over 20km each over the two-week period.
Many people had taken the opportunity to raise much-needed funds for charities during lockdown, so we decided that we would raise money for a local charity. Parents were asked for local charities and a number of parents put forward Restore. A JustGiving page was set up, and the charity challenge set to run from 18th – 31st May.
We provided the boys with a special Didcot Town T-Shirt with the Restore logo to show everyone what we were doing, and who for. Parents sent proof of the boys kilometres covered each day, as well as information on how they achieved this – by running, cycling, or walking..
Within a few days, it was quite clear that these 6 and 7-year old boys were going to smash their 300km target. Daily totals started to roll in. They reached 50km by the end of the first day, 90km by the second, and within just four days reached their 300km target – and smashed their fundraising target of £300 too!
The boys, their parents, and siblings loved the challenge. They were making special memories. Long bike rides and walks often resulted in midway picnics and stops for ice creams or fish and chips. All the parents commented on what it meant to them at such a difficult time. Everyone loved the challenge. It was helped by the fact that we had two weeks of wall-to-wall sunshine.
I was receiving messages as early as 7am to say boys had already completed a challenge and it wouldn’t stop at just one challenge per day with some boys completing two or three. Early morning runs were followed by bike rides later in the day. Fantastic photos were being sent into me of the boys and their families enjoying their challenge.
The football team had only been set up the previous August. We already knew we had a very special bunch of boys, who had surpassed every challenge we had set them during the season, but the challenge for Restore really showed their grit and determination, and made every one of us proud. I posted daily updates on Facebook and the parents would share this with their family and friends. The money quickly started to roll in from grandparents, aunties, uncles and friends.
The boys had plenty of energy left, and the day after both targets had been completed, covered another 100km between them and the money raised almost doubled. We continued to think of little incentives and I worked out how far it was to get to each of their favourite football teams grounds and back home so they became new mini targets.
On the 29th May, the boys completed two massive achievements. Collectively, they had now completed 1,000km and raised over £1,000. The team had shocked us with their achievements during the challenge. On the penultimate day, they surpassed everything we thought they could do and collectively they completed 178km.
Another 70km on the final day, saw the challenge finish with the team amassing a staggering 1,301km. The money had also gone up at a similar rate and £1,370 was raised by the end of the challenge.
The boys received lots of attention. We received some lovely messages. Tottenham manager Jose Mourinho sent a letter of congratulations, and Liverpool sent all the boys a personal message along with the autographs of everyone from the squad. The boys also received a letter from Kensington Palace, with Prince William, who does a lot for mental health through football, sending his own message of congratulations.
A number of the boys featured on BBC Radio Oxford with the listening audience being moved by their messages. Co-manager Adam Sellwood also featured on the Zoe Ball show on BBC Radio 2 and she commented on how proud she could tell both Adam and myself were of all the boys.
Fast-forward to September and with lockdown slowly easing; all the boys were back to doing what they love and playing football.
For our first game of the new season, they all wore their Restore shirts to play the game in and representatives from Restore came to meet all the boys. They also came with gifts to mark their fantastic achievement. Amongst the gifts, a wonderful plaque was presented to the boys and we have decided to award the plaque to one boy at the end of the season for going above and beyond for the rest of the team.
Everyone from Restore could see what a special bunch of boys we have, as they worked tirelessly. A great team effort saw some fantastic goals and they could see just how close they are as a team and the enjoyment they get from all their own hard work.
As a manager of the team, I am immensely proud of everything they have done in the past year. We have a special bunch of boys and parents, who we must also remember for their part in the challenge in May.