A seven-year-old Evertonian who has recently returned to playing football following intense chemotherapy treatment has met his Blues heroes at USM Finch Farm.
Charlie, his brother Jacob, dad Chris and mum Nikki were all invited to Everton’s Club training ground to meet players including Richarlison, Gylfi Sigurdson, Tom Davies, Yerry Mina, Andre Gomes and Seamus Coleman.
The players spent time with the family and signed their shirts before enjoying a kickabout with Charlie and Jacob.
“Both Charlie and Jacob were absolutely overjoyed at the experience," said the boys' father, Chris. "It was very surreal to see Charlie taking on Theo Walcott and Richarlison, and Jacob running around trying to score against Tom Davies - players who they see every week on TV.
“Charlie has not stopped talking about it since. When we put him to bed that night he asked, ‘Daddy, why did today have to end?’”
Charlie was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in February 2019 after his dad noticed he had become very pale and had unexplained bruises that wouldn’t go away.
When a small rash appeared around bruises on his arm and leg he was rushed into A&E. He immediately started treatment and has been undergoing gruelling chemotherapy at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.
After hearing Charlie’s story, the Club contacted Charlie’s family to offer him the chance to attend a Stadium Tour and to meet his heroes in person at the Club’s training ground.
Charlie has now finished the intensive and consolidation phase of chemotherapy and is in the maintenance phase, meaning his immune system is almost up to speed and he can go back to doing most of the things he loves - including football and swimming - when strength allows.
After having to spend time in a wheelchair due to the impact the treatment had on the nerves in his legs, Charlie has now recovered enough to resume playing in defence for his Under-8s junior football team, Stourbridge Town FC.
“Charlie’s chemotherapy continues with daily tablets and monthly hospital visits for intravenous treatment," explained Chris. "He still has a lumbar puncture every three months under general anaesthetic, which he is really brave about.
"He amazes us every day with his determination. He has a little over two years of treatment left but he is progressing really well. We are all praying it stays that way and he can ring the all clear bell when his treatment is due to end in June 2022.
“The strength is coming back slowly to Charlie’s legs and he is delighted to be back playing for Stourbridge Town. He gives every game his all no matter how long he is able to play for. To see him out there playing again is wonderful and testament to the little man’s courage and determination.”
During the visit to Everton, Charlie and Jacob were also presented with goodie bags which included a signed Everton shirt, water bottle, calendar, football, captain’s armband and a throw.
And the surprises didn’t end for the family when they left Finch Farm.
“When we got home, I took a look at Richarlison’s Instagram feed, and there was a picture of Charlie and Jacob playing alongside Richarlison for all of his 2.3 million followers to see, with more than 140,000 likes!" said Chris.
"It was wonderful to see that the day also really meant something to the players.
"Not many people get an experience like the one we had and we are so grateful to Everton for making it happen."