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Hugh Represents Blues At Festival Of Sport

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Everton in the Community and the Premier League and BT Disability Fund have helped one 15-year-old transform his communication skills.

When Hugh Evans was diagnosed with autism at the age of two-and-a-half, basic communication was expected to be difficult for him.

His father, Neil, says every organisations they turned to warned Hugh would not be able to speak or “do anything”.

But after a home education programme that specifically focused on social skills, Hugh learned how to interact with others. And four years ago, he started playing football with Everton in the Community’s disability initiative, which is part of the Premier League and BT Disability Fund. 

As Hugh, now 15, explains: "I said to myself 'get into football' - Everton was one option and I took it. I wasn't nervous, I was full of confidence.

"It's absolutely fantastic, one of the best things that could have happened to me. I'm a centre-back and have been captain for about a year. It means everything to be captain of this team, I'm really proud.

"It's helped me speak better, not just on the pitch but to people in general. I'm a lot more confident. I've even scored six goals for Everton, and I'm not as quiet anymore."

Neil adds: "Everton gave him the environment to develop. As a parent of a teenager with autism and someone who has been given such a dire prognosis, it's a great organisation.

"Irrespective of the children's challenges or abilities, it gives them a chance to participate in events, to get together once a week and be part of a team.

"It's given Hugh a focus, a purpose."

To mark the successful first year of the PL and BT Disability Sport initiative, participants from each of the clubs involved gathered together for a Festival of Sport at the Stoke Mandeville Stadium with Hugh chosen to represent Everton.

Neil says: "I think it's a fantastic event for the kids to come to. The kids travelled the breadth of the country to be there. 

"Watching Hugh here, [I feel] pride. When he's setting an example, promoting good behaviour, it's fantastic to see.

"His drive and passion is at times quite humbling. He's setting an example for me."

Hugh is one of more than 10,000 people who have been engaged in the PL/BT Disability programme since it was launched last September.

Over the past 12 months, Everton have engaged with more than 800 people and delivered more than 450 sessions.