There were some special festive visitors to the RD&E’s Bramble Ward when Exeter City's first team players took time out of their training schedule to drop into the hospital.
The players brought some Christmas magic and dozens of bears, toys, footballs, signed merchandise and Christmas stockings to the young patients who are sadly spending the festive period on the ward.
The players who visited the ward were captain Jake Taylor, Lee Holmes, Lee Martin, Nicky Law, Gary Warren, Lewis Ward and Dean Moxey. They were accompanied by manager Matt Taylor and mascot Grecian the Lion.
The group visited the youngsters and spent some time chatting with them and their families. There was also a chance to meet the staff and hear about the work they do on Bramble Ward.
It was a particularly poignant visit for player Lee Holmes, whose daughter Lila was treated on the ward when she was taken severely ill with pneumonia earlier in the year. Lee was so impressed and moved by the treatment of his daughter that he and his family held a bucket collection for the ward at St James Park, raising £900.
Donations for the visit were kindly provided by Build a Bear, Exeter City Club Shop, Supporters’ Trust, and by supporters leaving gifts in the club shop.
While they were on Bramble Ward the players met 14-year-old Serena from Kingsteignton who was being treated for osteosarcoma. Serena told the players that she had enjoyed football before her diagnosis.
She said: "I was enjoying playing football until I became ill and had to stop. It's been really good to meet the players today, I didn't want to go back to the ward."
Manager Matt Taylor offered for her to come and see them for some tips when she was well enough.
They also met two-year-old Freddy, who had a severe chest infection and was on the ward with his mum Claire O'Brien from Exeter. The players gave Freddy some toys and he was thrilled to meet Grecian the Lion.
Claire said: "We were really pleased when we heard the players would be visiting, things like this make such a difference and it's amazing that they give up their time to do it. Freddy loves football and it really cheered him up."
Exeter City chairman and director of football Julian Tagg said: "As a supporter-owned football club our role in the community is hugely important and the players are always keen to show their support and visit the hospital.
"We’d like to thank Bramble Ward for allowing us to visit and hope that seeing and meeting our players would bring some Christmas cheer to the children who are sadly spending the festive period in hospital. We’d also like to thank everyone who so generously donated gifts.’
Carl Holdway-Bradley, chief workshop manager at Build a Bear Exeter, said they were pleased to support the visit. He added: "Build a Bear is always looking to add a little heart to life and is proud to be able to support the community of Exeter."
Chloe Hutchings, matron on Bramble Ward, said: "We are really grateful to all of the Exeter City players who came to visit the children staying on Bramble Ward. The patients are always very excited to meet the team and it makes such a difference to those who have to spend this special time in hospital."