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Juan Mata and Daley Blind meet Foundation volunteers

A group of young volunteers from Manchester United Foundation were given the ultimate reward last week as they met Red stars Juan Mata and Daley Blind.

| by Thomas Jones

Foundation volunteers meet Juan Mata and Daley Blind

Ten young people from Greater Manchester were invited to the first-team Aon Training Complex in Carrington to celebrate their hard work and commitment as participants of the Foundation's Volunteer Ninety Nine programme.

Volunteer Ninety Nine is a unique volunteering opportunity designed to provide training, nationally recognised qualifications and work experience to young people aged 16-18 who are interested in pursuing a career in sport.

Participants build up their hours at various Foundation projects, including Street Reds and Premier League 4 Sport, and are encouraged to reach milestones of 33, 66 and 99 hours of volunteering. The three levels represent the FA Cup, Premier League and Champions League trophies, with the inspiration coming from Manchester United's treble winning heroes of '99.

During the visit, the young volunteers enjoyed a kick about with Mata and Blind before having the chance the grill the players with an exclusive Q&A session.

Mackenzie, 18, from Salford, became involved with Manchester United Foundation by volunteering at the Street Reds evening football provision in Ordsall.  He said, "I have got so much out of it and it's an absolute privilege to wear the United badge.

"When we met the players I was star struck at first and had to take a step back, but to have them playing with us was really good.”

Manchester United star striker, Juan Mata, said, "It's a real pleasure to be here with the young people; the Foundation is doing great work.  It's very nice to have the opportunity to help all the people just doing what you love to do, which is play football and try to be an example.”

Dawn Bracegirdle, community cohesion manager for Manchester United Foundation, heads up the innovative Volunteer Ninety Nine programme.  She commented, "The opportunity for young people to gain valuable work experience and real employment skills is what caused the need for this programme; it is a structured programme that allows young people to gain professional qualifications.

"Today's visit is a really nice way to reward the hard work of our volunteers who give up hours and hours of their time. It benefits them but it also benefits many of our projects within the Foundation, so to be able to meet a few heroes today is a really great way of rewarding their commitment.”