Everton in the Community will be marking its 29th birthday at the Blues’ home fixture against Bournemouth this weekend.
Ahead of the celebration, evertonfc.com will be looking at the numerous ways the Club’s official charity helps people in Merseyside and beyond.
EITC’s award winning disability programme is one of the largest and most respected in Europe and is headed up by former World Amputee Footballer of the Year, Steve Johnson.
A Football ‘Hall of Fame’ inductee since 2008, Steve has been the charity’s Disability Manager since 2003 and uses his first-hand experiences of playing sports with a disability to provide football and physical activity opportunities to thousands of disabled children and adults each year.
After losing his leg in an accident in 1985, Steve managed to turn his life around through the power of sport after discovering amputee football. Three years after his injury Steve was called-up to play for the England team where he went on to achieve more than 130 international caps, captaining the team for more than 20 years and winning three World Cups.
Crowned the Pride of Merseyside in 2012 at the Liverpool Echo’s Pride of Merseyside Award, an individual award that recognises someone that makes a difference to the lives of others in their community, Steve has worked tirelessly along with his team to make Everton’s disability programme one of the most influential and iconic disability sports programmes in the world.
The programme delivers a number of multi-sport programmes across Merseyside with a view to helping every individual they come into contact with achieve their dreams and fulfil their potential.
The last year has seen the charity engage with over 100 disabled children through school sports sessions and an additional 100 disabled players have represented Everton in the Community through our 10 disabled football teams. Those that are part of one of the disability teams are also invited to attend the charity’s annual Disability Awards, held local to Goodison Park, to reward and recognise both the individual and team footballing achievements from that year.
The programme is all-inclusive and there are teams available to those with any disability whether that be learning, physical, reduced stature, autism, cerebral palsy, deaf or partially-sighted.
The team at Everton in the Community also go that extra mile in supporting disabled people into education, training, employment, volunteering, and social opportunities, whilst tackling negative stigma in society and challenging the huge inequalities that still exist. The charity has developed a range of opportunities to empower disabled people and integrate them into everyday mainstream society and during 2016 we supported over 20 people into work placements, volunteering opportunities and/or paid employment.
The disability teams’ relationship with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital continues to go from strength-to-strength and the last 12 months has seen the team work with more than 800 children, their parents and siblings during activity workshops delivered on the wards five days a week.
The disability programme has the ability to enhance and change lives with the work they do every day and it is with the support and funding from individuals and external companies that allows them to grow and continue supporting those with disabilities throughout Merseyside.
In 2016, Rachel Kearney, the partner of the late David Thomas, donated £400,000 to the programme and Bibby Maritime, a company based in Liverpool, also announced that they would continue funding the Disability Counts League, something they have done since 2010, for a further two years, both helping to provide opportunities for hundreds of people with disabilities working with Everton.
Steve Johnson has spoken about the importance of external support and the work that his team look to do on a daily basis in the local community. He said: “It is absolutely vital to the running of the programme that we receive funding from external parties so we can continue in changing the lives of those that suffer with disabilities around Merseyside. Disabled people are the same as non-disabled, they want to play sport and they want to have the chance to play competitively.
“There is a lot of research that shows that disabled people don’t get them same opportunities as non-disabled, so that is something that we as a team continue to address and look to overcome. It’s not just about the sport for us we also want to offer the chance for social interaction, the chance to meet different people and all that goes with that. I can’t thank those who support us enough because without you we wouldn’t have the honour of being able to afford disabled people these opportunities.”