BY TOBY PORTER
Contrary to popular myth, it does not take much to melt the heart of a Millwall fan. They sing “no one likes us – we don’t care” in the stands, but outside the ground, even the hardest fans can be pussycats.
That was proved by a group of Den buddies who, two years ago raised £150 through a Christmas whip-round for the children at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). Now the total funds raised have mushroomed to £3,000, and this year’s till receipt for Yuletide gifts to the ill children was almost as tall as Millwall defender Jake Cooper.
When they took the presents along, a year ago, the kids performed an impromptu carol concert – and reduced the big burly boys to – well, not necessarily tears, but a few wobbly chins. Even Lions striker and notorious hard man Steve Morison might have let out a steely sniffle.
The group of friends, who travel together to follow the SE16 side home and away, have been mates for up to 20 years and refer to themselves as The Strings – because *******.
Two years ago they decided that it was time they all did something for charity. Within three hours, they had emptied their pockets and collected £150 and Charlie Pearce was on his way to Argos to buy gifts for GOSH.
The next year they decided to be a bit more organised and arrange for everyone who attended their annual seasonal drinks organised by Peter Noden and Charlie to donate to the cause – that night, they collected £350.
Several of the boys – the group also includes Harry Brooks, Eddie Toomey, Lee Bastin and James Bellefontaine – went to the same Argos close to the hospital and walked the toys round to GOSH.
When they arrived they were told by the nurse that the kids were about to practise their carols and asked if the boys would like to come and watch. Harry said: “Within minutes, each of the boys was in tears and had to leave.”
This year they wanted to fundraise more, so as well as their get-together they opened a Just Giving page. They also arranged for raffle prizes, including Millwall memorabilia, a signed kit from the club – plus, for to keep in touch with their softer side, hand-made scented candles, wine and toiletries.
They charged £5 to attend. The prize item was a boot worn by then-captain Paul Robinson the day he scored the winner and lifted the trophy for the 1-0 2010 League One play-off final victory over Swindon at Wembley Stadium.
The morning of the fundraiser they had £800 on the Just Giving page. They shared it a few more times and were soon up to £1,200 by the time they walked into their pub.
They raised £320 in raffle tickets from not just only their mates but also other patrons in the pub. The auction for the boot – won by Harry – raised a further £370. By this time, they had £1,500 on the just giving page, which made a total of nearly £2,200.
Charlie said: “We just want to thank everyone that has contributed the past two years. I dreamed up the idea at my desk at work in the first year. It was an instantaneous thing and within an hour of thinking of it, I was running round to Argos with about £100 we clubbed together. Thank you all for what we truly believe is a worthwhile cause and something that is close to many people we know personally.”
To contribute, go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/charlie-pearce7
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