177 supporters walked from Sparrows Lane to The Valley on Saturday 14 April as part of the annual fundraising walk for the Charlton Upbeats. With final donations still to come in, the event has already raised more than £20,770 for the programme, which caters for adults, young people and children with Down's syndrome.
The walk was 10 miles long to celebrate 10 years of the Upbeats programme, which is run by Charlton Athletic Community Trust (CACT).
More than 170 people with Down’s syndrome have participated in the programme so far, with 40 attending every week.
Charlton legends Simon Webster and Bob Bolder were among those taking part in the fourth walk, which saw participants go from New Eltham to Charlton via Shooters Hill, Blackheath and Greenwich Park in excellent weather conditions.
The Upbeats met walkers in Greenwich Park before heading to The Valley to prepare for matches on the pitch against a Norwich City Community Sports Foundation DS team, an Albion In The Community DS side and a combined line-up
Six-time DS Active National Champions, the Upbeats won 3-1, 3-0 and 3-1.
Charlton right-back Chris Solly handed medals out to players from all three sides, and Bob Bolder presented Upbeat William Cottrell with the man of the match award.
The Upbeats did their traditional lap of honour during half-time of Charlton’s game against Scunthorpe United.
Two Upbeats take part in work placements each week, and five recently gained FA Level 1 in Coaching Football qualifications, becoming some of the first young people in the country to do so.
Simon Webster said:
“I’ve done the Upbeats Walk for the last four years because it’s always been a valuable part of CACT.
“I’ve supported as much stuff as I could over the years, and this programme is just fantastic!”
Carl Krauhaus, CACT’s Head of Early Help and Prevention, said:
“The Upbeats Walk has become a big part of Charlton. We’ve run a lot of projects at CACT, but the Upbeats has become a very special one because of the fans.
“For me, they’ve got ownership of the project because they’re the ones that have kept it running for these 10 years.
“The Upbeats are six-time national champions but the programme has achieved a lot off the pitch as well, and we’ve produced a report which shows the support for families the project has achieved over 10 years.
“Thanks to everyone who has taken part in the walk, donated or sponsored the programme!”
CACT is grateful for the support of ITRM, Whitecode Design and Titan Elevators, who all had teams in the walk, and Regular Cleaning and WJ King who support our work with the Upbeats.
Dave White, ITRM’s Managing Director, said:
“We’ve done the Upbeats Walk for four years, and wouldn’t miss this for the world – we’re very proud to be involved with the Upbeats and CACT.
“It’s been a close affinity with the Upbeats. CACT don’t just provide a support mechanism for the Upbeats, they go a lot further than that.
“For example, we recently saw some of the Upbeats doing their FA Level 1 in Coaching Football badges”.
Tracey Leaburn, Charlton Athletic’s Player Liaison Officer, said:
“It’s fantastic every year how everybody comes along to support the Upbeats, this year walking 10 miles.
“I’m lucky, with my role, that I get to provide player appearances and spend quite a lot of time with the Upbeats. They’re so loving, they love playing football – you can see how they interact with each other – and we’re happy to help fund them.”
Contributors from radio show Charlton Live and forum Charlton Life also took part in the walk.
The programme is entirely funded by voluntary contributions – thank you to everyone who took part. If you would like to make a donation to support the Upbeats, please click here.