Bruno Fernandes, Alejandro Garnacho, Fred and Ella Toone surprised students from Manchester United Foundation’s partner school, Co-op Academy Swinton, in a visit of a lifetime to the club’s Carrington Training Ground recently.
All four players greeted staff, including Adele, the Foundation’s High School Partnership Officer who is based in the school full-time, before joining students in an action-packed session based around the topic of mental health, coinciding with Children’s Mental Health Week last month.
The players took part in ice-breaker games and a range of other activities centred around the use of the Foundation’s wellbeing ball, which features positive phrases supporting and encouraging discussions around mental health. The visit ended with an entertaining Q&A, before the players signed certificates and gave plenty of high fives!
Bruno said: "It's been really enjoyable to get involved in the activities and have the children come and visit us at the training ground. We know the positive effect that the Foundation can have in schools and it’s great to see the brilliant work they are doing around mental health.
“It’s important that children feel like they can talk about these things and speak up if they are having problems. The Foundation's work in the school is vital in providing that support; there is always someone there to help them."
In one of his first community appearances, Alejandro expressed his joy at engaging with the youngsters: “I’ve enjoyed being here with the Foundation, it’s always good to spend time with the children and hopefully we can inspire them. I was their age three years ago; I’m really proud to be here and to help.”
It was an extra-special visit for Ella as she reconnected with a teacher from her own school days. The England international said: “It’s been great to meet the students and see some old faces, while taking part in games and speaking with the children.
“I really enjoy seeing the work the Foundation does in our community and the support they give to young people in schools and across their projects. This programme allows the children to feel like they have a place to go where they can enjoy themselves, make friends and speak to someone if they need to.”
Fred shared Ella’s sentiment, he said: “I’ve enjoyed it a lot, it’s good to see everyone happy and having fun. Football is important but so is school, it’s been great to speak to the kids and get to know everyone. It’s always a pleasure to work with the Foundation.”
In 2021, the Foundation distributed over 5,000 wellbeing books and balls to children living in deprived areas of Greater Manchester. The books and balls provided Manchester United-themed activities, advice and self-care tips, inspiring and encouraging children to talk about their mental health and look after their overall wellbeing.
Throughout the season, the Foundation will continue its work in partnership with local mental health charity, Manchester Mind. Working in 60 partner primary, secondary and special educational needs and disability [SEND] schools, the partnership will support staff training and provide workshops that encourage students to talk about their mental health.
The feature was filmed for BBC Match of the Day and aired on Sunday 5th March on their repeat show.