It was a day to remember for five QPR fans who were given the full VIP treatment at Loftus Road to mark their volunteering roles in the area.
Nominated by fellow supporters as part of the football club’s community programme, the quintet were wined and dined in the directors’ box, then had the best seats in the stadium to enjoy the 5-1 victory over Rotherham.
At half time there was a standing ovation from 13,000 fans as they were presented with trophies and certificates on the pitch, as a club thank-you for their selfless contribution to community life.
Among those overwhelmed by their reception in the stadium was Julie Wilkins, who’s worked at local hospitals for 40 years and gives up her spare time to help patients with hearing loss, and support her daughter through a chronic illness.
“It was a great honour to be nominated, especially as my family, work and QPR are the things I enjoy in life,” said Julie. “It was a fantastic day, and we were looked after really well by all the staff at QPR.
“My work involves the diagnosis of hearing and balance conditions and the subsequent rehabilitation. It is very rewarding to help someone hear again. I am also in charge of the service, and I give extra hours to ensure my service runs smoothly.”
Another ‘unsung hero’ was Kevin Smith, a community polic officer whose school and youth club workshops warn of the dangers of knife crime, and who also volunteers at Hammersmith BMX Club.
“I really don’t feel like an unsung hero, but what an honour to be one of the chosen few to receive this award, especially from a club I've supported all my life,” said Kevin, from the youth office at Shepherds Bush police station.
“My role is very varied, working with young people in H&F, and working closely with the youth offending team, youth workers in local youth clubs and the borough’s three professional football clubs.
“Every school holiday I run Safe Camp at Phoenix Academy for eight to 16-year-olds, which is a free activity camp for young people who live, or go to school in, the borough.
“I also mentor young people, listening to their concerns to see if I can guide them along the right path. My role is very varied and rewarding as I'm giving back to my community I've lived in all my life.”
The other three unsung heroes were:
- George Sharp, a nine-year-old who came third in the Junior Great South Run, raising £400 for QPR in the Community Trust.
- Mark Foster, who has worked hard to add seniors’ and women’s teams to his local football club, Wraysbury Village FC, as well as serving the Scouting movement.
- Mick Geraghty, who organises chair football sessions in hospices and dementia care homes.
The Rotherham game was also a chance for QPR’s Community Trust to celebrate its partner community groups, with a host of organisations represented on the pitch, from Imperial College and the London Fire Brigade to Old Oak Community Centre and Wormholt Park primary school.
More than £12,000 was raised for the QPR Tiger Cubs, a football team for children and young people with Down’s syndrome, via the eighth annual 13-mile Tiger Feet walk from the training ground to Loftus Road.
“QPR has the community at its heart, and we wanted to show our gratitude to those unsung heroes whose contribution to the community often goes unnoticed,” explained Lee Hoos, chief executive for QPR.