Football club Rowsley 86 has chosen the Throat Cancer Foundation as their charity of the year in honour of a late player who died from the illness.
The Derbyshire team embarked on the partnership following the untimely death of fellow player Richard Billam, who died from the horrific illness aged 44 in March this year.
Player and social media manager Ryan Gackowski, 25, has been involved with the team for ten years since it started in 1981.
“We want to have TFC as our charity of the year and we want to have a big fundraising event next year as well as a charity football match going on in the pitch,” Ryan says.
“Our season starts in the middle of August so we want to build up as much awareness for TFC as possible with a match day programme.
“We also want to have TFC’s logo on our football strips and have charity buckets for the whole year at home games so that people who come along will put some money in.”
Members of the club were left completely shocked upon hearing about teammate Richard’s death as they had no idea he’d been battling throat cancer.
The married holiday rep had been living and working in Spain during the time of his illness, which he had lived with for a number of years before he tragically died.
Ryan added: “I had no idea he’d been battling throat cancer until the day he died.
“He kept it fairly private because when he was diagnosed, he wasn’t playing with the club any more.
“I think he wanted to try and protect us in a way.”
Kevin Wagstaff, club secretary, said Richard had been with the football club from 1995 up until 2006.
He’s made over 200 appearances for both the first team and the reserves, achieved 62 goals in 99 appearances and was involved with many of their title winning campaigns.
“He was a big part of the team,” Kevin says. “The biggest part that was reflected from people when he passed away was of how much of a positive influence he was on everyone before he passed away.
“He was always cheering and laughing with people and he was a really big part of the club.”
Tributes have been held by friends and family since the passing of Richard in March, but the club realised that more could be done to raise awareness for a cancer that is often overlooked in society. Hence the discussions with TCF over the pre-season.
Ryan continued: “We are thrilled that TCF have welcomed the partnership and hope that we can provide a platform for the charity to spread their expert knowledge of the disease to the local and footballing community over the course of the season.
“As well as promoting the charity on social media, we have included a charity page in the matchday programme for spectators to read about the work the charity does. Collection buckets will be at all home fixtures this season for people to donate any available funds.”
The club are also discussing events during the season to celebrate the life of Richard and the work of the Throat Cancer Foundation.
Jamie Rae, a throat cancer survivor and Founder and Chief Executive of the Throat Cancer Foundation, said: “We’re delighted that Rowsley 86 has chosen us as their charity of the year.”Over the next season, we are looking forward to this partnership and getting to know the supporters involved with the club who will be helping us to raise more awareness about the impact of individuals and their loved ones from such a devastating disease.
“Every year in the UK, 4,500 people die from throat cancer and one of our main aims as a foundation to is reduce that figure and get better survival rates for patients. We do this as part of our work by investing in ground-breaking scientific research aimed at improving treatment procedures and methods to eradicate throat cancers.
“We are keen to spread the word about our work at the TCF and to continue support patients and loved ones with the most up to date information and resources available.”He added: “Our work is vital in helping more people and their loved ones avoid the devastation of throat cancers, so please help us to help them, and make a donation, to make a difference in their lives.”
It is hoped that a charity football match can be organised at The Recreation Ground as a main event.
Anyone who is interested in donating to the charity can search for the Throat Cancer Foundation on social media, or visit the charity’s website, www.throatcancerfoundation.co.uk, for further information.