By KLTV Newsdesk –
Former professional goalkeeper Mark Crossley, renowned for his penalty-saving prowess, made a special appearance at Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice on Tuesday, 27 June, to lend a helping hand in the creation of a brand-new sensory garden.
This heartwarming collaboration was made possible through the efforts of Crossley’s team from WATCH #walkingsbrilliant, who raised an impressive £5000 for the project.
The initiative aimed to provide wheelchair-accessible sensory planters and hard landscaping for the hospice’s garden, ensuring that children with mobility challenges can fully enjoy the outdoor space.
The fundraising achievement was celebrated by Crossley and his crew, whose dedication brought them closer to their goal of supporting mental health and positively impacting the lives of those in need.
Crossley, a resident of Hoyland near Barnsley, expressed the emotional impact his initial visit to the hospice had on him earlier this year.
In a video that garnered over 300,000 views on social media, he shared his experience and admitted to feeling apprehensive before entering.
“The emotions that I went through over the two hours that I was there were unbelievable, Crossley said.
“I didn’t want to go in. I sat in my car for 10 minutes because I was scared to go in because I didn’t know what to expect.”
However, his trepidation quickly turned to joy as he witnessed the vibrant atmosphere within the hospice.
“But when I came out of there, I was smiling because everyone was so happy, singing and dancing; they’d built a family there; it’s amazing what they do.”
— Mark Crossley (@bignorms) January 11, 2023
Crossley was joined on this occasion by Hollie Shaw, 19, who was among the first children to come and stay at the hospice when it opened in 2012.
Hollie has a condition called Epidermolysis Bullosa, a rare genetic condition that makes skin so fragile that it can tear or blister at the slightest touch.
Hollie said: “It was lovely to meet Mark and do a bit of planting with him. It’s great that Mark and his team raised money to help make the sensory garden wheelchair accessible; it will help lots of the children here.
“I love to get outside in the fresh air and enjoy flowers and plants, but I have to use a wheelchair, and I struggle to access many visitor gardens elsewhere.
“The way they’ve designed their new garden here makes it so much easier to get around and get involved.”
The sensory garden was created with financial and volunteer support from WATCH #Walkingsbrilliant, Sheard Packaging, Eagle-Eye Fire and Security, J Fairbank Construction, Deco-pak, PolyGlobal and the supermarket chain Tesco.
The garden also features outdoor musical instruments created by Percussion Play.
Crossley, known for his 24-year-long career as a goalkeeper, played for esteemed football clubs such as Nottingham Forest, Manchester United, Millwall, Middlesbrough, Stoke City, Fulham, Sheffield Wednesday, Oldham Athletic, and Chesterfield.
Throughout his remarkable career, he became one of only three goalkeepers to save a penalty in an FA Cup Final, successfully denying Gary Lineker in 1991.
Notably, Crossley is the sole goalkeeper to have stopped a penalty taken by the legendary Matt le Tissier, with the two exchanging anniversary text messages each year.
— ForestTiliDie (@ForestTill1Die) March 24, 2022
Following his retirement from professional play, Crossley worked as a goalkeeping coach for an additional 11 years at clubs including Chesterfield, Sheffield Wednesday, Barnsley, and Notts County.
After leaving the world of football, Crossley faced personal challenges in adjusting to life outside the structured football lifestyle, battling anxiety.
Seeking solace and support, he connected with fellow ex-professionals experiencing similar issues.
Together, they formed WATCH (Walking and Talking Charity Hikes) #walkingsbrilliant, a group that found solace in nature and aimed to break the stigma surrounding discussions about mental health, particularly among men.
The group’s efforts not only enhanced their own well-being but also raised funds and awareness for projects positively impacting mental health.
Gareth Pierce, Director of Income Generation at Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice, expressed immense gratitude for the partnership between Mark Crossley and Walkingsbrilliant.com.
Pierce highlighted the profound connection Crossley forged with the hospice’s work surrounding mental health during his earlier visit.
“We are thrilled to have developed a partnership with Mark Crossley and the team behind Walkingsbrilliant.com,” Pierce stated.
He commended the contribution made by Crossley and his team, emphasizing the transformative impact their involvement had on the sensory garden.
The newly designed space will provide peace, safety, and joy for all children and families visiting the hospice, allowing them to cherish moments outdoors.
For more information about Forget Me Not Children’s Hospice, visit https://www.forgetmenotchild.co.uk/