Saints’ first team players and management paid a visit to Southampton General Hospital to spread some cheer amongst their young patients.
It has become tradition for Saints to make the trip to see the teenagers and children on the wards at the hospital.
Once again the players, led by club captain Kelvin Davis, clubbed together to purchase presents that will stay on the wards, including several portable DVD players and a large selection of films.
Split into two groups, the players and staff – including manager Ronald Koeman – met children in Bursledon House, which provides support, care and manages physical, psychological, educational and social needs.
While meeting children with short to long-term illnesses on cardiac, orthopaedic and cancer wards, as well as youngsters recovering from surgery, the Saints stars handed out signed posters, soft toys and goody bags.
The visit, organised by Saints Foundation, ensured the squad was able to spread some cheer to up to 250 children across 11 wards.
Koeman said of the visit: “Of course, in our view, football is very important but there is one thing in life that is more important, and that is your health.
“To see kids who have illnesses but are still laughing and still happy that we’re visiting them is a great feeling.
“Even when you have kids yourself, this is sometimes difficult but I think it’s good to visit them and to know that not always everything is okay and positive. Sometimes you get illnesses, but you have to be strong and positive.
“We try to give them a little bit of energy to fight, and that’s good. If we can give them that support, it’s nice to do.”
Skipper Davis added: “It’s very important for us to make these visits. The kids’ pain is obvious – and you don’t have to be a dad to understand that – but you just try to change their emotions for five minutes, take their minds off of it and hope in some ways that helps.
“You start talking to an eight year old who tells you not to let in a couple of goals and what formations they think we should play in, so you’re reminded that your job is there for everyone to see and that families talk about it. It’s fantastic for us to come down here and spend a bit of time around those stories.
“The support from the lads is not only for the guys getting treatment, but also for the staff as well to thank them for what they’re doing, day-in-day-out and perhaps bring a bit of fun to not make it a normal day, but see a day in the life of these guys.
“The staff do a fantastic job. I’ve been coming here for a few years now and you see some familiar faces. it’s good to see that they’re still committed to doing their best for everyone here.”
Claire Pickett, Healthcare Play Specialist at Southampton General Hospital, said: “Staff and patients look forward to the Saints team visit every year. It creates a real buzz within the wards.
“It brings together a real sense of community for the local families in hospital at this time, as well as those patients from further afield. For the children, young people and their families who have been lifelong Saints fans it truly is a dream come true, having the opportunity to meet their sporting heroes, creating lots smiles and happy memories.
“We are extremely grateful to the club for giving up their time to come and support us, and once again providing the children’s unit with the generous gifts.”
At the end of the visit, the club handed over a framed signed Saints shirt to replace last year’s, which will now be raffled off to raise funds for the hospital.