Over 200 people walked through south east London on Saturday 8 April to raise awareness and money for the Charlton Upbeats. They were joined by Charlton Athletic legends Derek Hales, Mike Flanagan, Simon Webster, Bob Bolder, Carl Leaburn and Paul Mortimer.
The nine mile walk began at Charlton Athletics training ground in New Eltham and finished at The Valley in Charlton. Throughout the walk, passers-by clapped the participants and drivers beeped their car horns and everybody was in high spirits. Although spirits were flagging a little towards the end, during the last mile they revived and there were loads of cheers and high fives from all the players.
After the walk, the Upbeats played Brighton and Hove Albion in the Community on the famous Valley pitch. Both sides played some fantastic football. Brighton did especially well as it was actually their first ever game. In the end, however, the Upbeats walked away with a 5-0 win, which they were ecstatic about.
Charlton Athletic Manager Karl Robinson said:
“It was a very special moment for them. They are good people, we’ve seen the enthusiasm they played with in the game before ours and I think it was a lovely touch by Ricky, Dec, Nathan and the boys who went into the crowed to really show what they mean to us.”
“This is what I mean about the unified club, when we all unite together we’re a special place. The players need to realise that the unified group comes by them winning games and working hard, which they did today.”
“We saw the Upbeats training the other week. The walk before the game is a special part of the football club. It’s an ingrained important that they play as part of the football club.”
Both teams received an incredible reception from the crowed as they took a lap on honour at half time, both the away and home fans were giving the players high fives and cheering them on.
Carl Krauhaus, CACT (Charlton Athletic Community Trust) Head of Early Help & Prevention said:
“It was another fantastic day for the Upbeats. The Charlton family really come together to support this fantastic programme. I’m really grateful to all the walkers, club legends, sponsors, community trust staff, staff at the club, fans and members of the local community who have donated and sponsored the team.”
“Their generosity means that we can continue to bring the joy of football to the local Down’s syndrome community and their families.”
The programme specialises in proving a progressive and safe environment for players of all ages to each their full potential. There is a clear pathway from young players who are learning the basic skills in the game up to the senior competitive football.