Michael Keane and Theo Walcott have joined forces with a 10-year-old schoolboy to launch a new campaign aimed at helping youngsters cope with mental health issues.
Evertonian Alfie came up with the idea to support fellow youngsters after himself dealing with the death of his father, who suffered with mental health troubles, in 2017.
An avid Blue, he wrote to Everton to see if they could help him achieve his goal and the idea of ‘Alfie’s Squad’ – a fundraising campaign to develop a children’s focused area within the Club’s proposed People’s Place mental health facility – was born.
Last Thursday, Keane and Walcott visited Our Lady of Good Help Catholic Primary School in Wavertree to see Alfie officially launch his project in front of his year 5 classmates.
England defender Keane, who first met Alfie in December 2017 when he helped with a food bank collection, said: “It’s been great to see Alfie again. He’s had a really tough couple of years with losing his dad but the things he’s trying to achieve with ‘Alfie’s Squad’ in terms of helping other people is so inspiring. It was great to help him launch his campaign.”
As part of the launch event, Everton in the Community coaches delivered a session from their Tackling the Blues programme – a sport and education-based initiative the charity runs in partnership with Edge Hill University to educate young people on mental health issues.
After some warm-up drills, Keane and Walcott joined the class in a game of emoji bingo, where the pupils were asked to identify their recent emotions using emojis.
“It’s important for us to teach the younger generation about feelings and emotions, how it’s important to express them and how it’s okay not to be okay,” said Walcott.
“What Alfie has done, what he has gone through up to this stage and what him and the Club are trying to achieve shows the character he is. He is a very brave little lad and a leader. It’s really inspiring that he’s expressing his emotions so positively.”
Reflecting on the success of the ‘Alfie’s Squad’ launch, Alfie said: “I hope we can raise lots of money to build up the funds for The People’s Place with Everton in the Community. It was great to have Michael and Theo at my school and it was really exciting to interact with them.
“The People’s Place is really important because it is all about talking and getting help. People don’t always feel like they can speak out when they are feeling sad and I am looking forward to working with Everton to help change that.”
Everton in the Community Director of Health Michael Salla added: “Alfie is such a remarkable young man and for someone who has just turned 10 years old to be doing what he’s doing is just fantastic.
“‘Alfie’s Squad’ will feed into The People’s Place project, which will see us provide a purpose-built facility to help improve mental health and suicide prevention and work towards tackling this massive problem.
“Choosing to launch ‘Alfie’s Squad’ is a fantastic way for him to turn what he has been through on its head and he now wants to help other young children who are perhaps in the same position as him. For him to turn such a negative into such a positive is massively inspiring.”