Mike Summers: 'The power of Palace is one of our greatest strengths'
Palace for Life Foundation Chief Executive Mike Summers reflects on some of the highlights of a busy 2019 and looks ahead to 2020.
Christmas is typically a time for celebration, relaxation and reflection and at Palace for Life Foundation we will certainly be aiming to do all three as we look back on a busy year and prepare for 2020. However, it is also important to remember that at this time of year, many people in our community need our support more than ever.
I’m extremely proud of our large and dedicated team of coaches and mentors who always go above and beyond to support those around them. During Christmas week, our coaches are working with Crisis to run football sessions for homeless people and one of our young trainees recently helped to organise a festive party for over 100 refugees in Croydon.
Throughout the year, almost 9,000 Palace for Life sessions and events are run in the community, ranging from disability football, to mentoring young offenders in custody and running healthy cooking classes for under-16s. We have helped 200 young people at risk of being caught up in crime to find a more positive future and 80 primary school children took part in our Team Mates programme to help build their positive mental health.
The power of Palace is one of our greatest strengths and this year many first team players from the men’s and women’s squads visited schools and community groups, bringing joy to so many children. A particular highlight was Roy Hodgson joining our Down’s Syndrome team for their weekly training session, it was a special evening that the players and their families will never forget.
We strive for diversity and inclusion in everything we do and I am pleased that of the 14,000 young people we have supported this year, almost 40% were female and over 50% were from Black and Ethnic Minority backgrounds, reflecting the diverse local area we work in.
None of our work would be possible without the generous support of the Palace fans and our other supporters who have walked, run, cycled, volunteered, donated and bought Super Draw tickets in your hundreds. In 2019, you have helped us raise almost £250,000 to support our work with vulnerable young people!
Our third Marathon March was a huge success (despite the rain!), with 130 of you walking 26.2 miles in support of Palace for Life. Next year, we are very excited to launch a brand-new, south London-focused route and hope many of you will join us on Saturday 10 October. We will also take on the Bike to Bournemouth, a cycle ride from Selhurst Park to the Vitality Stadium in March, which will be a fantastic weekend that we are very much looking forward to and there are still spaces to join us.
We have three very clear goals as we look ahead to 2020 – encouraging healthy lifestyles, creating safer communities and enabling positive futures for the young people growing up in the boroughs around Selhurst Park. None of this will happen overnight but I urge you to do what you can to help us get there. Merry Christmas and all the very best for the New Year!