YOUNG hospital patient Matthew Downey is all smiles as he receives an early Christmas present from two Sunderland firefighters.
The 11-year-old schoolboy is in the children’s ward at the city’s Royal Hospital, recovering from knee surgery.
Matthew, who shattered his knee cap while playing football, could have been forgiven for being a little taken aback by his surprise present – a football – but was delighted at his gift all the same.
“It’s not hard to guess what that one is,” said Matthew, of Fulwell, as he was handed the wrapped ball by crew members from Sunderland Central station.
Matthew’s mum, Gemma, 30, said: “He shattered it back in May – he ran into the ball, believe it or not.
“He has had to have another operation but he could be getting discharged today.”
“I think it’s really lovely that the firefighters have brought in these presents.
“It cheers the kids up because they don’t want to be in here at this time of year,” added Gemma.
Matthew, a pupil at Monkwearmouth School, also received a selection box.
Two-year-old Fireman Sam fan Joel Hudson was another of the children to get a visit from the firefighters.
Joel’s mum Julie Hudson, a 27-year-old barmaid, from Peterlee, said: “He is Fireman Sam mad so this is brilliant for him.”
Little Joel broke his femur, and has his leg in a cast which won’t be removed until after Christmas.
Julie said: “He had a three-week stay in hospital when he broke it but he’s just in for a check-up today so, luckily, he’ll be at home for Christmas but he will have this huge cast on.”
Ian Warne, station manager for Sunderland East fire station, was one of the officers on hand to dish out the presents.
Ian said: “We are hoping to make this an annual thing. The gifts have been donated by various businesses and shops.
“It’s just great to give to them and put a smile on their faces.”
Julie Bennett, junior sister on the ward, said it was wonderful to have presents donated to the children’s ward.
She added: “It’s fantastic. We try and do a raffle every year to raise money so we can get Christmas presents. We have to pay for any ourselves that we want to give out.
“This has been a huge help for us, it means we can give more kids Christmas presents.”