Doting dad whose football-loving son took his own life has set-up a charity in his memory

Harvey was a big SAFC fan who said ‘football should be for everyone’.

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Michael McWilliams, whose 18-year-old son Harvey tragically took his own life, has set-up a charity in memory of his son which provides football boots and other kit to disadvantaged children whose families would otherwise struggle to buy them.

Harvey McWilliams with dad MichaelHarvey McWilliams with dad Michael
Harvey McWilliams with dad Michael

Harvey McWilliams was a keen SAFC fan and would regularly attend games at the Stadium of Light with his dad. He “loved football” and had also represented Darlington Football Club’s Academy and played for Exeter Royals after recently enrolling to study sports science at Exeter University.

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Michael, 48, said: “Harvey was a big SAFC fan after I took him to his first game at just two-years-old.

“He was a typical teenager and he loved his football. He had shown no signs of mental health problems but he had been suffering from domestic violence.

“On December 21, 2021, he went for a run and never came back as he took his own life. There were no signs he was mentally ill, but on that day something obviously triggered Harvey to do what he did.

“If we had seen any signs then we wouldn’t have let him go out on his own that day.”

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Michael McWilliams with some of the donated football kit.Michael McWilliams with some of the donated football kit.
Michael McWilliams with some of the donated football kit.

Following Harvey’s tragic passing, his brother Luke spoke to his dad about “doing something” in Harvey’s name.

Michael was still trying to process what had happened to his son, but the discussion he had with Luke has now come to fruition as the family have set up the Harvey McWilliams Foundation which has been given official charity status.

In keeping with Harvey’s passion for all things football, the charity provides football boots, shin-pads, socks and training strips for disadvantaged children to use.

Michael said: “Harvey didn’t like to see people going without.

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“He always said football should be for everyone and when he outgrew his football boots he would always give them away to someone who needed them.

“A new pair of boots will now cost at least £50 and with the cost of living, many families simply can’t afford it.

“Playing football has so many physical and mental health benefits and so cost shouldn’t be prohibitive.”

Harvey loved playing football.Harvey loved playing football.
Harvey loved playing football.

Now living in Darlington, Michael has opened the Foundation’s headquarters in the town centre. The premises are adorned with photographs and memories of Harvey and his love for football as well as memorabilia including an SAFC shirt signed by the Black Cats players.

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The charity now has over 800 pairs of boots, some of which are brand new, which have been donated by local clubs including SAFC, Middlesbrough FC and Darlington Football Club as well as people across the region.

SAFC keeper Matty Young, who is currently on loan at Darlington, has also donated his gloves and goalkeeping kit.

Some of the football boots and kit which have been donated to the charity.Some of the football boots and kit which have been donated to the charity.
Some of the football boots and kit which have been donated to the charity.

Michael said: “We’ve had fantastic support from local people and the region’s football clubs.

“We have Harvey’s name on the charity’s tops and I still feel he is with me. He liked to help people and it’s good to be able to do something positive from something so tragic.

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“Harvey loved football and we are just continuing what he did but on a bigger scale.

“We had one young boy who had been offered a trial at SAFC’s academy, but he didn’t have any boots. He came to us to borrow a pair and he got into the academy.

“Seeing the kids walk away with a pair of boots and a smile on their face is really satisfying.

“There is a need for this type of service. Football is a way of getting kids off the street and I’m glad we can do this.”

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The Harvey McWilliams Foundation is now based at 5 Whessoe Road, Darlington, DL30PQ, and also provides advice on where people can go to get help with their mental health as well as financial support.

Following Harvey’s passing, Exeter Royals changed their strips to the traditional red and white stripes of SAFC, in recognition of Harvey’s love for his club.

Anyone who needs support or would like to donate kit to the charity should contact Michael on 44 7716 172729 or via the charity’s Facebook page.

:: You don’t have to be suicidal to call Samaritans. Whatever you’re going through, call them free any time from any phone on 116 123 (this number is FREE to call and will not appear on your phone bill)

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