The festive season is firmly upon us and on Thursday, the Chelsea men’s squad visited children in a local hospital to spread some Christmas cheer before heading to Stamford Bridge for the annual Junior Blues party.
First Frank Lampard and his team surprised kids and their families at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, a short walk from Stamford Bridge, where they handed over presents, signed autographs and posed for selfies on the children’s wards.
Captain Cesar Azpilicueta believes it is a vital contribution from footballers during the festive period.
He said: ‘For us it is very important to share in this time of the year which is very important for the kids. Christmas is approaching and it is nice to spend time with the kids and with the families, to cheer them up a bit and also they cheer us with the support and the way they love Chelsea Football Club.
‘It is very nice and it is amazing for us as well as an experience to spend this time in the hospital.’
Lampard was with his players on the day. He said: ‘I visited this hospital many times as a player. It was a yearly event for us to come down and see some of the children who were having a tough time and also to see all the great work that is done here by the nurses and doctors. It is a real pleasure for us to be here.
‘We know the great work they do here. My youngest daughter was actually born here so I know first-hand the care and the attention they give and the hours they do, including periods like Christmas when some people are off.
‘If we can make a tiny bit of difference with a bit of happiness, we are just happy to be here with some gifts or to say hello and hopefully bring some smiles to faces.’
There was a special surprise for the staff and patients at the end of the visit with Lampard presenting the hospital with some additional gifts on behalf of the squad in the shape of PlayStations, televisions and more.
‘We know the little details can make people happy,’ explained Azpilicueta. ‘With our resources we thought about this possibility to help the hospital to have these gifts, which they can share with the patients and help with their time in hospital.
‘It is not nice to be here but we know sometimes people have to go through these periods and from our part, we want to help as much as possible.’
This year’s trip was organised by the Chelsea Foundation with the support of CW+, the official charity of Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, including its hospitals and clinics.
The players then headed straight to Stamford Bridge where they were greeted by over 100 young fans, who were enjoying an early festive treat in the form of the Junior Blues Christmas Party.
The event took place in the Great Hall at Stamford Bridge and among those attending were Junior Blues members aged between five and 13, who secured their place at the party by registering last month.
Club mascots Stamford and Bridget were also in attendance as the children took part in a wide range of fun activities, including a quiz and a competition to design a Chelsea shirt, with the winners getting special Blues presents.
There were huge cheers when the players arrived on stage, and after a group photo and a message from Azpilicueta, they then had the chance to compete against the youngsters present at table tennis, table football and FIFA.
There were also shooting, penalty and heading challenges, which brought the competitive side out of the players, and giant games of hotly-contested Jenga and Connect 4. A couple of players and children had to undertake a special secret task, while an arts and craft table was a new addition this year. The event ended with more cheers from the children as the players waved them goodbye after another fantastic Christmas party.