Everton in the Community raised tens of thousands of pounds – and counting – for the charity’s pioneering Peoples’ Place project on a vibrant Gala Dinner evening staged in association with SportPesa, the Club’s principal partner.
The People’s Place is a proposed permanent mental health facility for EitC to deliver a breadth of programmes and, vowed chief executive Richard Kenyon, “building the People’s Place is not our aspiration… it is going to happen.
“Another first for Everton, another first for Everton in the Community…another first for football.”
Kenyon delivered the evening’s keynote speech after Manager Marco Silva and Everton’s entire first-team squad entered the Titanic Hotel’s Rum Warehouse accompanied by Z-Cars blaring from the speakers – and a standing ovation from a packed floor.
“I’m proud to say we have grown into a charity that is serving more than 20,000 participants every year and changing and saving lives every single day,” Kenyon told the room.
“EitC has for many years been at the cutting edge of social innovation. It is a charity that steps up and takes responsibility for tackling issues which could be seen to fall outside the expected remit of a football club.”
The first bit of knockabout fun arrived in the form of a Question of Sport-style picture quiz. Teams captained by Everton ambassadorial pair Ian Snodin and Graham Stuart each studied 12 snaps featuring an assortment of Evertonian personalities – from Thomas Gravesen, Amanda Holden and Jason Kearton, to Duncan Ferguson, Ian Marshall and a cherubic-looking Andre Gomes – and called most of them right.
Snodin, joined by Jonjoe Kenny and ‘golden ticket’ holder Leslie – envelopes were placed under two seats to determine the final participants – won it on a tie-break question.
By the narrowest of margins.
— Everton (@Everton) March 12, 2019
Stuart, Tom Davies and golden ticket holder Colin Bell – roared on from his corner of the room – furrowed their brows, chatted urgently and guessed Everton scored 67 goals in 2017-18.
Snodin delivered a low blow, punting on 66. The actual figure was 61.
Silva and Director of Football Marcel Brands were invited on stage by hosts Giulia Bould and Darren Griffiths, Brands insisting that nine months in at Goodison Park the pair have a whole lot more they want to achieve on the field.
In terms of Everton’s community work, insisted Brands, “We are in the Champions League”.
Kenyon generated the night’s loudest cheer when he paid tribute, on behalf of the charity’s 20,000 and more participants, to EitC’s 125 staff and hundreds of volunteers “for their bravery, skill, expertise and care.
“It is so special,” said Brands, a though echoed by Silva, who added: “From my first day here I have learned about the Everton family.
“It is really important to me, my staff and players, we know one day of our time can become a special day for others. It is a pleasure for us to support EitC.”
Jake Mills, brainchild of EitC’s mental health charity partner Chasing the Stigma, was a special guest, and listened to Kenyon declare:
“There is power in the badge and power in the name Everton.
“Something magical, something that breaks down barriers, something that unites, something that takes away stigma and something that enables us to effect change. It gives us opportunity and responsibility.
“And we take that very seriously.”
On the People’s Place, specifically, Kenyon referenced the facility’s potential “pavement power”, how it will “enable people to call in to discuss how they’re feeling”. Whether they are simply low, he explained, or if their thoughts are more pernicious still. Suicide kills 150 people across Merseyside every year.
“Just like physical health we can have good mental health or poor mental health – and a big part of our work is making people understand this,” said Kenyon. “That it is okay not to be okay.”
A musical interlude featured an eclectic and upbeat selection of covers – but it was the iconic Bullseye theme tune which really piqued interest.
A revival of the 1980s hit television show involved Phil Jagielka and Leon Osman taking on Gylfi Sigurdsson and Anders Limpar – all four men strolling on stage accompanied by their own walk-on music. The English duo prevailed over their Scandinvanian foes in a battle of wits and darts.
💙 | The room is buzzing for our Gala Dinner! #PeoplesPlace
— Everton in the Community (@EITC) March 12, 2019
All the while a silent auction was on the go, bidders vying for various items of prestige sporting memorabilia.
The luckier entrants into the night’s raffle walked off with prizes ranging from a day at the Grand National, through a swanky overnight break to a bottle of Everton gin.
And that was followed by a live auction which saw dinner guests bid thousands of pounds for once-in-a-lifetimes prizes including lunch with Duncan Ferguson, a round of golf with Michael Keane and Theo Walcott at Royal Liverpool, and dinner with Brands.
There remains a small way to go to reach the £1million target which will give The People’s Place lift off, the figure moving closer into view with bidding ongoing and donations still being counted.
When we talk about EitC, however, there is always more to come.
“While we may already ahead of the curve compared to what other clubs have done – we know we can also do more,” said Kenyon.
“And that is what we’re going to do.”