POORLY youngsters got a Christmas treat from Sunderland AFC players.
Members of the Black Cats’ first team visited sick children in three hospitals across the region to spread festive cheer.
American striker Jozy Altidore, SAFC club captain John O’Shea, Italian left-back Andrea Dossena and midfielder Ki Sung-Yeung paid visits to children’s wards at Sunderland Royal Hospital, Durham University Hospital, and the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Great North Children’s Hospital, in Newcastle.
Players posed for photographs and signed pictures for their little fans, while chatting about football.
Young SAFC supporters received gifts including Sampson and Delilah mascot teddies, Sunderland AFC annuals, match tickets, calendars and other goodies.
Defender O’Shea said the players wanted to give the children and their families some extra-special Christmas memories.
He said: “It’s a very difficult time of year for young people to be in hospital, and for their families too, so hopefully our visits have helped to lift their spirits a little. All of the lads who visited the hospitals enjoyed spending time with the kids, and we wish them all a very Merry Christmas.”
Meanwhile, youngsters at University Hospital of North Durham were paid a visit by a different man in red and white.
Santa dropped in on the children staying in the hospital over Christmas with his elves and the chairman of Durham County Council, councillor Pauline Charlton. Neighbourhood wardens Kendra Milne and Steven Stocks organised the visit.
Staff from the council’s Peterlee depot, East Durham Homes and Durham City Homes donated gifts for children staying on Treetops ward, which cares for children from birth to 16-year-olds.
Steven said: “Christmas is an exciting time of the year, especially for children.
“There are lots of poorly children in hospital at Christmas time so we wanted to make their Christmas as special as it can be.
“The children were delighted and so excited to meet Santa.”
Coun Charlton said: “Treetops Ward at University Hospital of North Durham is one of my chosen charities.
“It was an absolute pleasure spending my afternoon talking to the children and giving them gifts. Their smiles made my day.”