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The award, the pride, the charities and giving back…

15 April 2024

Community

The award, the pride, the charities and giving back…

15 April 2024

From early in the playing career of Will Vaulks, the midfielder quickly recognised the power of the player and the potential for using this for good in the community.

On Sunday night at the EFL Awards ceremony in London, Vaulks scooped the PFA Player in the Community Award for the third time in his career.

His vast work with charities began way before his time with Wednesday and since moving to Hillsborough, the 30-year-old is as dedicated as ever to those off-field commitments.

Vaulks is well known for his charity work and special connection with Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice.

Over the past year, Vaulks has also become an ambassador for the Baton of Hope - the baton symbolises a growing movement of hope and aspires to a zero-suicide society.

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It was through attending an SWFC Community Programme initiative ‘Talk Club’ where Will met Baton of Hope founder Mike McCarthy, who lost his son Ross to suicide in 2021.

During the Talk Club event at Hillsborough, Mike and Will, whose family has experiences with suicide, struck up a special and lasting bond.

Both of Will’s grandads lost their lives to suicide and last summer in their memory, Vaulks kick-started the Baton of Hope relay event in Sheffield from the stadium over to Hillsborough Park, supported by several of his Wednesday team mates.

He told swfc.co.uk: “It means a lot to receive the award, it’s not why you do these things to receive an award but it’s nice to get recognition for raising awareness for things that mean a lot to me.

“I think there has always been a cause close to my heart along my playing career and this one (Baton of Hope) this year has meant the most to me I think.

“The Baton of Hope was something I stumbled across by chance with the club. They were doing a great thing having the Talk Club and then I met Mike McCarthy – again a chance meeting – and we just so happened to both be bereaved by suicide.

“I felt it was right to kind of dive in and go for it and I really do want to raise awareness for the Baton of Hope because it really is an amazing charity.”

He continued: “It is hard because there are so many things and you feel like you should be giving to everything. But Bluebell Wood, again, I stumbled across them, went for a visit and they became really close to me.

“I didn’t have kids at the time but I just felt kids that are losing their lives or families that are going through really difficult times with children who have life-limiting conditions – what more could you want to give for?

“Now having kids of my own, if I was going through anything like that I would want support from people and I don’t think we could look for a more deserving charity than a children’s hospice, I really don’t.

“Bluebell Wood will forever mean everything to me and the Baton of Hope is a charity my family have been personally touched by.”

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On receiving the prestigious award for the third time, Will continued:

“You have to come here and accept the awards. You sometimes think, should I really be accepting awards like this because there are people who do so much more than me.

“But then you look at young Shay (O’Grady), who was on Saturday Night Takeaway for all the work he does for Bluebell, he does so much and it’s fantastic to see. I’m inspired by him and I hope fans can be inspired by me and Shay to do more.

“It might be £50 raised by selling cakes or whatever but that means so much to the charities.

“As a footballer, rightly or wrongly, you have a bigger audience to spread your word and that’s where I feel, not guilt as that’s a strong word, but a bigger responsibility that if you can, then give more back.

“I met Mike for a coffee on Thursday and I told him I was coming down for the awards ceremony and honestly, the things he’s done over the short time since losing his son has been unbelievable.

“I know the trauma a family goes through when they lose someone to suicide and it is heart-breaking, it’s like a bomb goes off in your family.

“Mike has been phenomenal and it means a lot to me to be here and for what Mike has done, I don’t really have the words. To set up that charity, while losing your son, I can’t imagine what it would be like for him so really, this award is for him.”


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