Newcastle United Foundation. Bruno delights young supporters at Newcastle United Foundation disability football session

21 Mar 23

Bruno Guimarães was the surprise guest getting in the middle of a Newcastle United Foundation disability session to help create a football game like no other for children and young adults

The Brazilian midfielder amazed participants and their families enjoying a free weekly Down syndrome football session as he arrived in the Foundation's sports hall at NUCASTLE, powered by Newcastle Building Society.

Met with roaring cheers and chants, Bruno - joined by his father - settled straight into a game of football with teenagers and young adults before signing autographs and posing for pictures with participants.

Bruno's visit comes as people and organisations across the globe mark World Down Syndrome Day on 21st March, creating awareness and advocacy for the rights, inclusion and wellbeing of people with Down syndrome.

Bruno said: "This has been an amazing evening being able to spend time with this group. It is something so simple for me to do, to come and see everybody, but I hope that it can be something that they will remember all their lives.

"I always say about the love of the fans being incredible in Newcastle and this is now one of my special moments of meeting supporters and thanking people for their support.

"Seeing the beautiful work that is being done by the Foundation is really important and I could see just how much it means to the Down syndrome team to be part of this charity and have the opportunity to play football and make friends.

"This city and the people really love football and our club, so it is amazing to be able to give something back to the community."

The Foundation provides free football coaching for adults and children with disabilities through an inclusive approach to sport. During term-time, the charity's dedicated Football Development Disability team deliver 23 individual disability sessions every week across the North East.

During the 2021/22 season, Newcastle United Foundation engaged and supported 1,653 participants through its disability programmes. Participants report that the Foundation's disability football sessions help them to improve their physical and mental wellbeing, provides a sense of belonging and allows them to feel motivated and part of a team.

Harry Brown, who has been attending Down syndrome football sessions with the Foundation for several years said: "It was awesome! It was great to meet one of my all-time favourite Newcastle players.

"It was amazing that he made his own time to come and meet us all and play football with us."

The Foundation's disability programme operates across the North East - from Hexham to Consett - with the charity's home, NUCASTLE, providing a central hub for participants and their families and care givers to enjoy.

The Foundation's free disability and wellbeing provision includes autism spectrum conditions football and support, amputee football, blind football, cerebral palsy football, deaf football, Down syndrome football, frame football, learning and physical disabilities football and support, powerchair football, and visually impaired football.

Vital funding from community-minded organisations including St. James's Place Charitable Foundation and NorthStandard ensue the Foundation can continue to provide free and inclusive opportunities for all to enjoy sport, socialising and play.

Kate Richards, Senior Solicitor (FD&D) at NorthStandard, said: "NorthStandard values its partnership with Newcastle United Foundation and is a proud sponsor of the Down syndrome team.

"Having seen the teams play first-hand, it's a privilege to be a small part of the work the Foundation does in providing opportunities for all to play. Because it's not really about the game - it's about building relationships, increasing confidence and developing skills and these qualities are universal."

World Down Syndrome Day is a global awareness day officially observed by the United Nations on 21st March. This year, the World Down Syndrome Day campaign calls for people and organisations around the world to be 'With Us Not For Us'.

The campaign aims to highlight that people with disabilities have the right to be treated fairly and have the same opportunities as everyone else - working with others to improve their lives.

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