Former Sunderland footballer Jordan Henderson returned to Wearside to launch a major new cancer charity.
The Liverpool and England star met fans at the George Washington Golf Club, officially opening a new state-of-the-art, £500,000 driving range and academy, as part of the charity launch which saw the Eileen Smith Foundation created.
Jordan’s grandmother Eileen died from cancer earlier this year, and the Foundation in her name will not only keep her memory alive but provide support for cancer patients by offering free transport to hospital for treatment.
Jordan’s father, Brian, himself a survivor of cancer, said: “The charity is named after my mother-in-law who died from the illness last month.
“When she was at hospital she shared long hours of conversation with other sufferers, some of whom were elderly and far less fortunate, in the sense they had to travel on two or three public transport buses to get to and from hospital.
“Having gone through treatment myself, it must be a daunting task to trudge home after long hours of therapy in the hospital on public transport.
It’s bad enough to have cancer, without having the worry and hassle of struggling to get to and from treatment. I know how awful cancer can be because my dad experienced it.Jordan Henderson, Liverpool and England footballer
“So Eileen and her husband Ged registered their business as a non-profit organisation to donate all the profits from the company to the charity she registered just before she died.
“The Foundation aims to provide free transport through volunteer drivers for those suffering from this dreadful illness - it’s a similar concept to the North East charity ‘Daft As A Brush’, based at the Freeman Hospital.
“Initially it will start off on a local level, but ultimately, if it is successful, we hope it can be unrolled nationally.”
Former Sunderland midfielder Jordan was only too happy to be part of the Foundation launch at the George Washington Hotel, where Sun FM marked the occasion by broadcasting live from the grounds.
Jordan, who is set to link up with the England first-team squad later this week, tried out the new driving range, with the Golf Club and Hotel looking to donate thousands of pounds to the cause.
Speaking to the Echo after posing for charity selfies with supporters and signing autographs, the ex-Black Cat said: “I’m really pleased to be back in the North East to launch this charity, especially when it is family.
“It’s a great cause and I’d like to thank everyone who turned up to offer their support.
“Any donation to cancer charities is worthwhile, but I like the fact that this one has a specific area where it plans to help.
“It’s bad enough to have cancer, without having the worry and hassle of struggling to get to and from treatment. I know how awful cancer can be because my dad experienced it.
“He has been through it and seen how it can affect people, and I think it’s a really good cause which is going to be greatly appreciated.”
As part of the launch, Jordan donated a signed England shirt worn at the Brazil 2014 World Cup; a signed Liverpool 2014/2015 shirt; plus a Sunderland 2014/2015 shirt signed by the whole team.
More information on the charity can be found on the Foundation’s Facebook page: facebook.com/EileensCharity, where donations can also be made.