21/12/2012 00:00 AM
Emilie Austin opens her presents from Fred the Red, Robin van Persie and Alexander Buttner
Reds play Santa Claus at Manchester children’s hospitalsPatients at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital and the Young Oncology Unit at The Christie were delighted when their footballing heroes walked through the doors bearing Christmas gifts.
Armed with presents ranging from iPads to cuddly toys the players set about signing and posing for photographs with as many patients and staff members as they could.
Seeing the faces on the patients and the joy that you give them at a difficult time is something we take really seriously.
Ryan Giggs surprised the patients of the Young Oncology Unit with his team-mates Wayne Rooney, Tom Cleverley and Jonny Evans, while the rest of the first-team squad embarked on a 13 ward tour of Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
“I’ve been visiting the Christie for the last ten years,” explained Ryan. “It’s something that the lads enjoy doing. Seeing the faces on the patients and the joy that you give them at a difficult time is something we take really seriously.”
Confirming the United hero’s story was Mahesh Vara, aged 23 from Bolton, who first met Ryan as a child. “I was diagnosed when I was eight years old at Pendlebury Children’s Hospital with the same sort of cancer I have now”, says Mahesh. “I found out Ryan Giggs and David Beckham were just about to leave so I ran to see them. It’s quite remarkable to see him under the same circumstances so many years later.
“I told Ryan that I was using his yoga DVD to help me with my fitness. I wanted it to be something I could relate to – not one by a 40 year old woman - although I’ve not done the bit where I test myself against Ryan yet.”
On the other side of Manchester, Captain Nemanja Vidic headed-up the rest of the Manchester United first-team as they delivered presents to children on the wards of Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.
14 year-old Connah Haslam was enthralled in an Xbox replay of the recent Manchester derby, when United’s star signing Robin van Persie entered the room. He joked with Connah as he admired the 6-2 score line, in favour of Manchester United.
When asked if Robin had scored for his virtual team Connah said: “No, I brought the wrong version with me so he isn’t even playing, I wish I’d brought Fifa 13!” He continued, “It was incredible to meet the United players; I’m a big fan and I’ve never met a football player before.”
Further down the ward, cheeky two year-old Emilie Austin (right) giggled along with the players and gave each of them in turn a hug. Emilie’s mother, Becky Austin said: “I think she would have had them here all afternoon if it was up to her. It was lovely because the kids have been so hyped up at the thought of somebody special coming, so when you find out it’s Manchester United it’s just brilliant for them. To me, it just means that there are other people that actually care. Obviously you don’t ever want to be in hospital at Christmas time with your little ones, so the fact that people give up their time to come in is just wonderful.”