Everton midfielder Andre Gomes joined forces with Everton in the Community to host its first-ever hug-a-thon with his efforts helping the charity reach £100,000 of its £1million target for its mental health fundraising campaign, The People’s Place.
More than 200 Evertonians bought tickets for the event at Goodison Park, with each person getting the opportunity to meet, and hug, Blues star Gomes in the setting of the home dressing room.
The hug-a-thon raised more than £2,000 for The People’s Place, with Gomes’ efforts helping Everton in the Community reach £100,000 of its overall £1million fundraising target to develop and build a purpose-built mental health facility in Liverpool 4 offering help and support to anyone in need.
And to keep fans entertained whilst they were waiting for their hug, Fan Zone host Giulia Bould hosted a Q&A session in the Alex Young Suite with EitC CEO, Richard Kenyon, Club Ambassador Graham Stuart and Chasing the Stigma founder Jake Mills, educating fans on The People’s Place campaign and upcoming plans.
Speaking after the charity’s first ever hug-a-thon, Gomes said: “It is a big honour for me and it was a pleasure to do it. I’m very happy that I could be the first player to do it. For me it is special.
“Since the first day I came here, I felt really good and I feel part of the family. I feel a lot of happiness to be here right now. It was special for me to have so many people here waiting for a hug!
“In the last couple of months, I have understood more what Everton in the Community does with the people here and it is amazing, fabulous. For me to have a really small part to help out is really a big honour. It is a different club, a special club, with special people.”
Everton in the Community CEO, Richard Kenyon, said: “It has been fantastic to see so many smiles from Evertonians young and old, and also a big smile on Andre’s face. He was very keen to get involved and support this campaign and we are grateful to him for everything he has done tonight and putting a lot of smiles on our fans’ faces. It has been a different event to what we are used to, but it has been a really uplifting and enjoyable evening, and everyone is leaving happy.
“Our players have all been fully supportive of the charity for many years and are very on board with this campaign. Over the next year there will be a lot more interaction with the players who are all keen to give their backing to The People’s Place.”
The hug-a-thon was held the day after Blue Monday, calculated as the most depressing day of the year where people commonly feel most low after Christmas. It is hoped ‘The People’s Place hug-a-thon’ will have helped to boost those January blues as hugging has been proved to have many psychological benefits that will positively impact your health and mood.
Based in the shadows of Goodison Park, The People’s Place will provide an overarching service to anyone, regardless of age, gender or location, to promote positive mental health alongside support related to suicide awareness and prevention.
One in four people experience poor mental health each year whilst suicide kills 150 people across Merseyside a year. Mental illness and suicide are significant public health challenges which are more common in more significantly deprived inner-city areas such as L4 where almost the entire ward of Everton falls into the most deprived five per cent of neighbourhoods nationally.
You can show your support to The People’s Place by visiting www.peoplesplace.net or text EITC31 £3 to 70070.