Phil Neville helped Everton in the Community celebrate 25 years of life-changing work by joining staff and participants at a special birthday event on Thursday.
The Everton captain was greeted by over 100 guests from the local community who have, and continue to, benefit from the varied work of the Blues’ official charity.
The special event was hosted at Finch Farm almost 25 years to the day that Everton in the Community was launched and showcased some of the programmes that have made such a difference to the lives of thousands of people on Merseyside and beyond.
“I would like to congratulate Everton in the Community on their 25th anniversary,” said Neville. “Today’s event has been brilliant and I have enjoyed meeting everyone involved.
“I think it's fantastic that we're such pioneers when it comes to Everton in the Community. We're the People's Club, we're a community club and we do such great work in the community in the projects we put on for the disabled, the underprivileged, school children, and I've seen first-hand how it’s grown over the last 25 years.
“It’s great because the smiles on the kids faces, it lights up my life, it inspires me, it makes me humble. Seeing these people and the smiles on their faces really hits home to me and makes me proud to be captain of a club that does such sterling work for its people.”
Everton in the Community CEO, Denise Barrett-Baxendale was on hand to introduce Neville to participants as they shared their inspiring stories.
The skipper met a group of young people who have taken up non-traditional sports thanks to the Blues’ Premier League 4 Sport programme, as well as ex-forces personnel from the Inside Right initiative, a scheme which offers veterans who have, or who are at risk of developing mental health problems, the opportunity to exercise, make new friends and cope more effectively with the transition back into civilian life.
“I would like to thank Phil for helping us to celebrate 25 wonderful years of Everton in the Community,” said Dr Barrett-Baxendale. “I am extremely proud to be celebrating our silver jubilee and more importantly the impact the charity has made in the last 25 years.
“These wonderful achievements would not have been possible if it were not for the hard work, dedication and expertise of my staff, who strive to make a difference seven days a week, 365 days a year. Their impact has helped us to achieve local, national and international recognition for our work, and more importantly, improve the lives of thousands of local people.
“I am sure Everton in the Community will continue to grow and serve the local community for another 25 years – and beyond.”
Neville then went on to meet two teams of disabled footballers, who without Everton’s world-class support, would not get the chance to participate in regular, competitive football like their able-bodied peers.
Finally, the 36-year-old joined a lesson with students from the Everton Free School, and talked to them about how the organsation’s different approach to learning is helping them to improve their grades and ultimately their employment prospects.
Everton in the Community was established on 1 February 1988, and over the last 25 years has grown to be one of the most well-respected and pioneering sporting charities in the UK. It has been at the forefront of its game, challenging health and social issues, including anti-social behaviour, disability, mental health and education.
Earlier in the season the charity launched an ambitious fundraising campaign to mark the anniversary and are inviting all Evertonians to help raise £1million to help it in its mission to support even more vulnerable and underprivileged people on Merseyside.
Everton in the Community is asking 40,000 supporters, the capacity of Goodison Park, to raise just £25 each to help achieve a target of £1million.
This landmark birthday will be celebrated at the Blues’ home fixture against Aston Villa on Saturday, which has been designated a special day of celebration.
Ahead of kick-off, Everton in the Community will be hosting a raft of activities to thank fans for their continued support, including music, games, giveaways, face painting and appearances from special Everton guests.
The fun starts in the Park End car park from around 1.30pm.
For more information about any of Everton in the Community’s projects and how you can get involved, click here.