Last week, we welcomed Andrew Geddes, his sons Mark and John, and their families, along with their friends and children, to Mahdlo Youth Zone for a special event – breakfast and a football masterclass with Manchester United legend and Mahdlo Honorary Patron, Paul Scholes.
This was a grand auction prize that the family generously bid on and won at the Michael Josephson MBE Charity Ball in 2021, where Mahdlo was one of the beneficiary charities.
The young people that attended came armed with some very impressive and tricky questions for Paul that tested his memory of his 20-year career playing for Manchester United and England.
How many yellow cards in his career? How many free kicks had he given away? What was his best goal? His favourite player? As the questions continued to come in thick and fast, young people started arriving at Mahdlo for our Junior Zone session.
I spotted Tom coming into session in his Manchester United Kit, so I asked him if he knew who Paul Scholes was. “Yes”, was the answer, “Manchester United is my favourite team” he said, so I made it my mission to get Tom a photograph with Paul before the end of the day.
At Mahdlo it’s all about creating opportunities for young people, so after a quick check with Mark, I took Tom into the room to say hello to Paul and have a picture taken with him. His day, week in fact, had been made.
His face was a picture of happiness and he looked so grateful for the opportunity. He walked away from that moment with a spring in his step, but the best was yet to come.
Fast forward 20 minutes, and the football masterclass was well underway. Tom wasn’t engaging with session, he was watching our guests play football with Paul. He was mesmerised. As Paul shouted encouragement and direction to his team; “will I be able to play?” asked Tom.
Being honest and realistic with young people is important, so I told Tom it would not be possible this time, but we would get an autograph for him after the game had finished. He accepted and started to walk away.
Mark had overheard the conversation between Tom and me, and again with unwavering kindness offered Tom the opportunity to join in. To say he was excited was an understatement; he played 30 minutes playing on a team with his hero.
After the match, standing proudly with his signed football, Tom told us that it had been the best day of his entire life and ran off to play with his newfound friends.
At the end of the session, Tom left with a signed football, personalised signed message, certificate and two framed photographs – and that was before he found out he was going to Old Trafford that afternoon!
Unbeknown to Mark and the family, Tom has faced many years of neglect in his young life, but that’s his story to tell when he’s ready and not mine to share. The Geddes family had already made such an impact on many young lives through their generosity, but this act of kindness in making a young boy’s dream come true meant more to Tom that day than they’ll ever know.
Through creating opportunities for young people like Tom, new positive memories are being made, and hope provided for the future. One small act of kindness has played a huge part in the next chapter of Tom’s story.