Footballers kick-off festivities

CHRISTMAS came early for dozens of youngsters and hospice patients who received a visit from Ipswich Town footballers.

CHRISTMAS came early for dozens of youngsters and hospice patients who received a visit from Ipswich Town footballers.

Members of the club's first team visited five hospitals and hospices in Suffolk and Essex yesterday, spending time chatting to those who cannot spend the festive season at home.

The players arrived at the children's hospice in Ipswich carrying a sack full of Christmas gifts for patients and families to enjoy.

They clubbed together to donate digital cameras and three televisions and video/DVDs to help brighten up the bedrooms and family room at the hospice, while electrical firm Currys provided extra toys for the children.

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Simon Hempsall, marketing manager at the hospice, said: “They were laughing and joking with the children and spent a lot of time to make sure they enjoyed themselves.

“One little girl was playing football with them outside.

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“They came in and did painting with them. The staff enjoyed it as well.”

First team players Richard Naylor, Dan Harding and Billy Clarke made a special trip to St Elizabeth Hospice in Ipswich to hand out presents, sign autographs and chat to the patients on the wards.

Felicity Green, fundraising manager at the hospice, said: “Christmas can be a difficult time for many people, particularly so for our families and patients.

“To have players come in really lifts their spirits. We are really grateful to them for taking the opportunity to come and see us.”

Other squad members visited Ipswich, Colchester and West Suffolk hospitals to wish patients a merry Christmas.

Town manager Jim Magilton said: “Being in hospital at Christmas can be very difficult, especially for children.

“The players really enjoy seeing everyone on the wards and love putting smiles on their faces. It's great that we can show our support to our community at this time of year.”

N Did you see the players? Did it make your Christmas? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail

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