Manchester United goal keepers Edwin van der Sar and Ben Amos joined Tanya Ryan last week as she cut the ribbon to mark the opening of Francis Lodge – a state-of-the-art respite centre, built purposely for teenagers and young adults who receive care from Francis House Hospice - one of Manchester United's charity partners.
The lodge was the brainchild of Tanya’s brother Stephen Ryan. 18 months ago Stephen wrote a letter to the Charity Trustees of Francis House describing his desire to spend more time at the hospice as he was becoming increasingly isolated as his neuro-muscular condition worsened. He was finding it difficult to keep in touch with his mates by computer and so his plea was for more respite for himself and his group of friends.
The Trustees were eager to grant Stephen his wish and build a four-bedroom respite centre for young people with a short life expectancy.
Stephen died last November, just nine months before Francis Lodge officially opened its doors. If he had survived Stephen would have cut the ribbon himself, but his sister, who also has the same life limiting condition, took his place. She said: “Stephen was determined to see a service created to meet his and his friends care needs and to live a life like any other person rather than one governed by routine. To think this has all happened from something as simple as writing a letter, but he was the one to put pen to paper and so it’s because of him that we are here.”
The Manchester United Foundation will work with Francis House as a charity partner of Manchester United for the next three years, fundraising to provide continually improved facilities and services for all those who attend the hospice and the lodge. Representing the Foundation on the day were goal-keepers Edwin van der Sar and Ben Amos. The United keepers applauded Tanya as she cut the ribbon at the doors of Francis Lodge and were then taken on a grand tour by the residents.
After discussing the potential for a hot-tub in the garden, Edwin certainly made an impression on one of teenagers, Wayne Johnson from Hull, “I think we should get him on the Board of Advisors so we can get the idea pushed through!” Said Wayne. He added, “I’ve enjoyed meeting the players today and seeing what they are really like, the young keeper Ben Amos is a great guy.”
United fan Tanya was also delighted with the player visit, she said, “Stephen would have been so proud today, he would have been amazed. Even though he’s not here, I know he’s watching his dream come true.”