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It was a case of third time lucky for a football-mad foster carer from Great Wyrley as he finally got to meet his heroes as a special treat.
Lifelong Walsall FC fan Pete Jones, who has been a foster carer with Sunflower Fostering for the past three-and-a-half years, got to meet staff and players from his beloved club – after missing out on two separate opportunities over the past month.
West Midlands foster care agency, Sunflower Fostering, recently struck up a relationship with the Wyrley Wildcats U11s, after learning that Pete, was involved in coaching the team that his foster child also plays for.
Sunflower Fostering treated the team to a day out at the Banks’s stadium with the Walsall FC Community Team. The Wildcats got a coaching session and the chance to have their pictures taken pitch-side before watching a match. However, Walsall season-ticket holder Pete, missed the day out due to a family holiday.
When staff at Sunflower Fostering realised Pete had missed out, they pulled out all the stops to get Pete on the pitch during the Walsall Vs Coventry game, on Saturday 29th October – the day after his 56th birthday – to meet his idols and have his photo taken as a belated-birthday treat to make up for it.
Due to unforeseen circumstances on the day, Pete never made it on to the pitch before the game and was again left disappointed.
When Walsall FC heard about Pete’s double disappointment, they were only too happy to help. They arranged for him and his wife, Rachel, to visit their Essington-based training ground on Thursday as an extra-special treat.
Pete got to watch the team train, before meeting his favourite players and getting their autographs. He even managed to get in on the act when the players did their very own ‘mannequin challenge’ for social media.
Pete, who attended his first Walsall match at the tender age of five, said: “It was an amazing experience to see behind the scenes, I really felt like a bit of a VIP. I have been following the Saddlers all my life, so it was a very special day for me.”
Pete, who has three children, six grandchildren and three foster children, said: “Going to the football has been something I’ve been able to share with my children, grandchildren and now with my foster children. It gives us time together and gives Rachel a bit of a break on a Saturday afternoon.
“I was initially a bit reluctant to foster, as I felt like we had already done that part of our lives with our own kids. It’s not something you can do lightly, but I’m so glad we did it as it’s incredibly rewarding.”
Sunflower Fostering manager, Fleur Johnson, said: “It was a great disappointment when we realised that Pete would be away for the day out at the Banks’s stadium, and then it was even worse when we realised he never made it on to the pitch before the Coventry game.
“We can’t thank Walsall FC enough for inviting him along to watch the players train.
“Our foster carers give so much to the children in their care, this was just a small way of saying thank you to Pete to show our appreciation.”
Walsall FC manager, John Whitney, said: “It was a real pleasure to welcome Pete and Rachel to the training ground. We were only too happy to help when we heard about his story. It’s always great to meet the fans – we’re glad he had a great day.”
Options is currently recruiting foster carers across Walsall who can offer a safe, loving home to a child.
Sunflower Fostering, which is run by Options and is part of Outcomes First Group, is proud to have all the personal elements of a small agency with the added benefits of being backed by a bigger group, meaning they can offer more training and full support from their clinical teams.