Foundation’s Down Syndrome football team gives Emily chance to be ‘part of Newcastle United family with help from Northumberland Freemasons

20th November 2021

A shy teenager who struggled to connect with her peers now has a whole team of new friends to get to know at Newcastle United Foundation’s Down Syndrome Football Club sessions.

A passionate United supporter, Emily, 18, began searching for inclusive opportunities to play football and found DS Active – free, accessible football sessions for young people living with Down Syndrome.

Part of the Foundation’s Football For All disability programmes, DS Active welcomes children, teenagers and young adults to weekly sessions overseen by dedicated football development coaches working within the official charity arm of Newcastle United.

Emily’s family were thrilled to find DS Active running in Blaydon, just three miles away from their home, and knew it would be Emily’s chance to build her self-confidence, introduce her to new people and help maintain an active lifestyle through the sport she loves.

Caroline, Emily’ sister, said: “Emily absolutely loves football, so to find a team such as the Foundation’s DS Active team for her to play in was amazing.

“Emily has never taken part in any type of group event before outside of school and she was very nervous to start with, but she has come out of her shell and loves every minute of it.

“Emily has always struggled to make friends, especially with her own age group so its very heart-warming to see her make new connections and friendships. She also loves being part of a team.

“For her to be keeping healthy and exercising doing something she loves is great. And it’s also helping with her reflex skills and her coordination as well – she does have hypermobility, so it is helping a lot with that also.”

She added: “Emily’s especially excited to be a part of the Newcastle United family as she loves watching them play on the television at home.”

DS Active sessions currently run every Tuesday from Blaydon Youth and Community Centre and are among a number of free disability football clubs for children and teenagers offered by the Foundation.

Emily said: “I love going to football and I like scoring goals and seeing my new friends.”

The Foundation’s disability programmes rely on donations from generous organisations with a shared goal of creating fully inclusive communities.

A portion of the DS Active team programme is funded by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Northumberland, with this sum matched by the Masonic Charitable Foundation.

Stuart Cairns, Provincial Grand Secretary for the Freemasons in Northumberland, said: “It was a unanimous agreement among our trustees to apply funding from our Benevolent Fund to support Newcastle United Foundation and specifically to sponsor their Down Syndrome Football Club.

“We are thrilled to see the terrific support and service that the Foundation gives to the local community, and our Masonic Charitable Foundation in London agreed to match our grant to award a total of £10,000.

“Freemasons Northumberland sincerely hope this funding helps to provide a fun and inclusive opportunity for the region’s young people to enjoy sport, making friends and staying active.”

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