On the EFL Day of Action for 2019, the Blackburn Rovers Community Trust are taking the chance to salute a member of the Rovers squad who has gone above and beyond to support the work of the club's Community Trust over the course of the past year: goalkeeper Jayson Leutwiler.
The Canadian international has been a fantastic community asset to Rovers since his arrival at Ewood Park, actively volunteering his services to become the club’s first ever disability sports ambassador.
As such, Blackburn Rovers Community Trust nominated him for the right to be named as this season's EFL Player in the Community Award winner at the EFL Awards.
Whilst he was beaten to the Championship title by Rotherham United's keen charity fundraiser Will Vaulks, the annual day of celebration of the wonderful collective work undertaken by the league's 72 clubs is the perfect chance to thank Jayson for the contribution he has made.
At the time of the nomination to the EFL early in the calendar year, we were asked to highlight some of Jayson's key highlights from the previous 12 months, which have included...
February: Jayson volunteered to coach Whitefield Primary School’s football team after they won our EFL Kids Cup qualifying heat, asking fellow goalkeeper David Raya to join him and inspire the young players ahead of their day as representatives of the club. Their excellent defence subsequently saw the team reach the northern area semi-finals, only eventually succumbing to a penalty shoot-out defeat.
May: Engaged with the club’s supporters at our disabled supporters’ Christmas party, at which he met our disability sports officer Matt Pilkington and offered to support his project as an ambassador.
September: Came to Walton-le-Dale St Leonard’s Primary School to support their reading initiative, aimed at getting more boys to read by using the influence of a professional football. He took part in a very animated question and answer session and even read excepts from books such as ‘Elmer’ and ‘The Enormous Crocodile’ to the whole school in the assembly hall – no mean feat for someone who didn’t speak English until six years ago!
December: Came to participate in one of the weekly disability football coaching sessions, encouraging the players, talking to them one-to-one and creating a great sense of excitement with the way he got stuck in to various small sided games and challenges, commentating while playing and taking part in free-kick challenges to test whether some of the wannabe goalkeepers could match his skills. He played his ambassador role perfectly and was very approachable with the youngsters, who have a broad spectrum of registered disabilities between them.
December: Made another appearance at a disability-themed event, this time the club’s Christmas Party for disabled supporters, where he mingled with numerous fans for chats, photos and autograph opportunities and was the last first team player to leave.
Since that point, Jayson has offered further support to the Community Trust's disability projects, including taking time before a first team fixture to come and wish all the players well in our first ever junior diability fixture against Bootle Bucks Inclusion FC. He is also set to join us at the official opening of a new specialist school for children with autism in Blackburn next month.
When asked about why he got involved in the Community Trust's ongoing work, the Swiss-born stopper explained: “For the first time this year, the Community Trust has created a training session for disabled children, which I think is a must, and I’m happy to be part of that project as its ambassador and see the joy on each kid’s face during the training.
“I believe that it is important to give the same opportunities to every kid and that they deserve the same right, so the Community Trust has done great in that aspect.
“Also, I believe it is important to go to schools and make an appearance to set a good example to kids that they should follow if they want to become a good person or get a good job in the future, not just in football.
“I have had the chance to go to many schools in the UK in the past few years and I’ve also visited schools and football clubs back home in Switzerland.
“The fact that you can give them hope about making their dream come true by just telling them what you do is an amazing feeling.”
A big thank you from all at the Blackburn Rovers Community Trust goes to Jayson - and all of his Rovers team mates - for the wonderful work they undertake all year round to help support their exciting and varied work.