The Chelsea Foundation has always been committed to supporting the club’s older fans and earlier this month two of our most loyal supporters were rewarded with a trip to the Royal Box for the Community Shield.
Dave Hadley and Joe McKenzie are part of the Stamford Bridge Activate Seniors programme and joined staff from our global charity partner, Plan International, as guests of the Foundation for the game against Manchester City at Wembley.
Sitting in the Royal Box, the duo, who have supported Chelsea for a combined 142 years, enjoyed first-class hospitality as well as prime seats for the traditional curtain raiser to the new season. But while the experience proved one never to forget, the duo believe the work done by Foundation staff to support the older generation on a weekly basis is more important than the trip to Wembley.
Dave Hadley, 84, said: ‘We used to come here and work with computers but now it is more social and we get the chance to meet up, talk football and have quizzes. It is important as it keeps our brains ticking over.
‘It is good fun and I have been coming for eight years. If you live alone like I do, coming here and chatting is so important. I still go to games, but others can’t and this lets us get together and talk football like the old days.
‘The trip to Wembley was wonderful. I have been so many times but to sit in those seats, have a lovely meal, it was an occasion not to be forgotten.’
The Activate Seniors programme, originally known as the ‘Silver Surfers’, aims to develop and enhance the experiences of older people, focusing on key areas such as reducing social isolation and loneliness, improving health and wellbeing and bridging the generation gap through inter-generational schemes.
The Chelsea Foundation now run a variety of groups across Hammersmith and Fulham, Kensington and Chelsea and Wandsworth, built on the existing senior groups at both Stamford Bridge and our Cobham training ground.
Joe McKenzie, who worked at the club prior to retirement as a concierge and then in the post room, added: ‘I have been a Chelsea fan for 68 years, and am 72 now so I have been associated with the club for a long time and it is great that I can continue being part of the club.
‘I enjoy the group and while it sounds simple it is just important we get out of the house. We would welcome more and more people to take part and we want it to continue.
‘I used to know Jimmy Greaves and he got me tickets in the past but Wembley was out of this world. I have been to many matches but this was something else. From the food to walking out and sitting on the centre circle – we were treated like princes!’