Picture gallery: Celebrity football match raises thousands for memorial charity
- Credit: ©gdaviesphoto.com
On Sunday a community came together to celebrate the life of an inspirational boy who touched the hearts of all who knew him.
Ethan was just 11 years old when he died in hospital five days after suffering serious head injuries in a car crash last October.
At the weekend a series of events were held in the Thaxted schoolboy’s memory – including a celebrity football match at Saffron Walden Town Football Club.
Sam Tonkin reports on the outpouring of emotion.
MOMENTS after a minute of applause rang out around Catons Lane a tearful embrace took place in the centre of the pitch.
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Ethan’s mum Morag, dad Bob and sister Emelia huddled together with firefighter Matt Goullee – the man instrumental in helping to organise Sunday’s event – as a crowd of almost 700 people watched on.
It was described by Emelia as “the truest and strongest moment I have ever had,” and left Matt visibly wiping away the tears as the game kicked off.
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“It was quite an emotional moment,” said Matt, one of the firefighters called to the scene of Ethan’s accident between Great Sampford and Thaxted. “We hadn’t spoken about Ethan the whole time we’d been organising this and it all just came out then.”
Described by the football club as a “phenomenal” outpouring of support from the community, the day saw £2,835 raised for the Ethan Rees Linwood Memorial Fund – a charity set up by the Saffron Walden County High School student’s family.
A sold out concert featuring Mercury Music Prize winner Badly Drawn Boy on Saturday night and charity car wash by Thaxted firefighters during the day is expected to help contribute a further £2,000.
Ethan’s family are now keen to see the money raised benefit youngsters in the community and have urged residents of Uttlesford to nominate those who could be helped by the fund at ethanrees.org
His mum Morag said: “We wanted to keep alive Ethan’s spirit of kindness and willingness to help everybody. Our family, friends and the community as a whole have been supportive beyond words by giving up their time and reaching deep into their pockets.
“Now we would like to call on everyone who helped us to suggest who we might be able to help in the community.”
Celebrities including television presenter Jeff Brazier, The Only Way is Essex star Jordan Childs, and the frontman from the band The Subways, Billy Lunn, took part in the match, along with former footballers Steve Sedgeley, Leo Roget and Paul Terry.
They ended up on the winning side as a 30-yard wonder goal from Brazier secured a memorable 3-2 victory for the All Star XI against a Saffron Walden Town FC Chairman’s XI.
A trophy, donated by the Reporter, was presented to winning captain Matt Goullee by Ethan’s dad Bob.
Speaking after the match, Roget told the Reporter: “It has been a great turnout and nice to see smiles on people’s faces. I never met Ethan but his family has told me how he always had a smile on his face, so it’s fantastic to see that reflected by everyone here today.”
Terry, the older brother of former England captain John, added: “It has been a fantastic effort for a worthy cause and I’m just proud to be part of it. The crowd shows how much people wanted to be here to remember Ethan.”
Brazier’s appearance cued a gathering of autograph hunters but it was on the pitch that the 33-year-old reality television star signed off in style.
“I’m well aware I’m not the fittest anymore so I thought I’d stay at the back and try and run as little as I could. Then the first time I ventured forward the ball came to me from Paul Terry and I just unleashed it into the top corner,” he said, before later tweeting “Watching Match Of The Day but we all know where the real moment of quality occurred today...”
The celebrity football match followed an earlier game between Ethan’s old Thaxted Rangers team-mates and his friends from the County High, before the standard dropped dramatically for a match between parents and ‘old timers’.
There was also an acrobatic performance by the Rumblebees Cheerleader Squad to complete a “memorable occasion” hailed by chairman of the football club, Melvyn Seymour.
He issued a challenge to Matt and the Linwood’s to repeat the event next year, cheekily promising to get Manchester United stars Ryan Giggs and Paul Scholes to play, while Ethan’s dad Bob confirmed the family would like to make it an annual event.
“As a family it was always going to be a difficult day,” said Bob, who is set to embark on a trek to Machu Picchu in Peru next Monday to raise more money for the fund.
“It was the most emotional thing we have ever done, particularly with everyone clapping and standing there remembering Ethan before the game.
“Knowing what Ethan was like, with him always wanting to please everyone, he would have found it fitting for his old Thaxted Rangers team to draw 1-1 with his new friends at Saffron Walden County High.”
He added: “It was an emotional day for Matt – this event was his idea and he proved to be an absolute hero. Of course, he had never met Ethan but his journey began when he was touched by so many people at the memorial service.
“There aren’t enough words to describe what it means for him to have put together such an outstanding day – he’s a superstar.”
Ethan Rees Linwood Memorial Fund
To raise aspirations of children and young people, enabling them to realise their potential and have their achievements recognised.
How to apply:
Recipients must live within a 15-mile radius of Thaxted, be aged 8-16 and be in some form of need. Applications can be made at ethanrees.org