Meet Lee Fender, the supporter behind the CAFC Kits for Kids campaign

When Lee Fender decided to ask Charlton fans to donate a few pounds to help purchase a few children the Christmas gift of a Charlton shirt, he had no idea how big a campaign he was starting.

Just a few weeks later and more than £6,700 has been raised by Addicks supporters and matched by new Charlton owner Thomas Sandgaard, meaning 310 young fans will get a very special gift this Christmas.

Speaking from his home in Australia, the lifelong Addick admitted it has been a “humbling” experience.

He explained: “My plan initially was to get a few people involved so we could give away a few shirts. People thought that was a great idea so, I sort of got the ball rolling the following week. 

“I would have been happy with five shirts – what’s five shirts, £250, well, we’re up to more than £6,700. Mr Sandgaard, [who is an] absolute legend, came in last week and said ‘This is a great idea, I would like to match it’, so we’re actually over £13,000. That’s 300 shirts, that is amazing. 

“Everyone keeps coming back to me saying this is great but it is not me, it is everybody. Debbie Cross and Julia Amis at the club shop are both putting a lot more time in than me. It’s just amazing and I couldn’t be happier.”

The first batch of shirts will be distributed this week and the club has joined forces with Charlton Athletic Community Trust to hand out the second batch. 

“It is great,” he enthused, “because the Trust are fully aware of what children are needy and under-privileged and we’ll do the other half through the [Charlton supporters'] Facebook group. The Community Trust has always been an organisation that does such good and they’ll know where these shirts will be appreciated.”

It is not the first time the 46-year-old has spent money on Charlton to help others.

He said: “It was just a couple of years ago I joined the Charlton unofficial Facebook group. Because of my background in the navy I’ve seen a lot of poverty and growing up in Charlton, there is poverty there, we know that. I grew up in a family of six children, we never went without, my mum and dad worked their butts off to make sure we had everything but that is not always possible.

“I don’t believe kids should have to suffer with poverty. My way of supporting the club financially and doing a bit of good is just buying tickets. Every month I buy tickets but I can’t obviously go to games, so I just buy match tickets and I randomly give them away to people. It makes me happy. I never ask for any credit or notoriety. I only seem to have got that since this has grown. With the impact of the pandemic, I thought: ‘I can’t buy match tickets, so what can I do?’, so I bought a couple of shirts and it grew from there.”

One thing he wasn’t expecting was the involvement of Sandgaard, who purchased the club in September.

Lee explained: “People were saying to me to contact him. I’ve said it time and time again that Thomas Sandgaard has come in and bought a club where he knew that we weren’t getting gate money, I can’t come in and ask the man to donate to something. He’s putting in a lot of money for a club where he is not making anything, so obviously the word has got out about this and he has done this off his own back. 

“So that’s actually better because there was no pressure. We’ve seen what a generous and amazing man he is. I think it has been proven from day one that he is here for the long haul and he’s here for the fans, which is something we haven’t experienced for quite a few years.”

Fender grew up in Wolf Crescent and spent his childhood around Floyd Road, idolising Nicky Johns. He moved to Australia aged 23 and has lived there ever since but that doesn’t impact his support of Charlton thanks to Valley Pass.

He said: “I’m guilty of staying up at all hours to listen to commentary and watching the matches. Back in the Premier League it was only listening to commentary really. Now, as the internet has progressed, we are very fortunate; even in League One, that I can watch every game. 

“I work for Rio Tinto now. I work my shift plan around the football season. I’m very fortunate and my boss hates it. I don’t miss a game, I refuse to miss a game.”

While fundraising for the campaign has now closed, supporters can donate to Charlton Athletic Community Trust by clicking here.

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