All smiles at end of Niall’s Mile

SAFC Foundation Trustree Niall Quinn taking part in Niall's Mile at Sunderland Stadium of Light. Niall Quinn at the end of the race with a group of youngsters from Sunderland YMCA who took part.
SAFC Foundation Trustree Niall Quinn taking part in Niall's Mile at Sunderland Stadium of Light. Niall Quinn at the end of the race with a group of youngsters from Sunderland YMCA who took part.
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STRIDING around the Stadium of Light, football legend Niall Quinn tackles the community walk he put his name to.

The star and SAFC Foundation trustee circled the pitch he once commanded to mark the end of Niall’s Mile for 2011.

He was joined by young people and NHS health champions as they completed four laps of the famous turf.

The aim of the series of walking events, held during the past few months, is to encourage Wearsiders to take part in physical activity while also raising money for the club’s charity, the SAFC Foundation.

An additional walk was held yesterday so Niall himself could put his best foot forward, after being kept busy with international commitments.

The former chairman of Sunderland AFC told the Echo he had misgivings when Niall’s Miles was first mooted.

However, he is delighted with what it has achieved for the Foundation.

“I found it a little but embarrassing when I was first asked to put my name to it,” he said.

“But the supporters have really got behind it and it’s gone from strength to strength. They have reacted brilliantly.

“Everything is reinvested back into the city. There’s back-to-work schemes and working with troublesome children who are finding it difficult in normal schools.

“One of the most successful courses we have done is the parenting course, which realigns parents with their children.

“It’s all through the power of football and using it to light up lives.”

Joining Niall on the walk were a number of NHS Health Champions, a 600-strong team who give out health advice at a grass roots level.

Volunteers, community workers and frontline NHS staff have all signed up to the scheme, which aims to tackle key health issues on Wearside like excessive drinking and smoking.

The event has been organised by SAFC Foundation, the registered charity of Sunderland AFC which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary of delivering health, education, community and sport programmes across the North East.

Twitter: @janethejourno