Dedicated Blackburn Rovers Community Trust staff have been providing daily online activities, meal deliveries and weekly competitions to local children as part of the Get Stuck In summer activity programme.
Rovers recruited around 130 sign-ups for the project, which was originally organised to take place across the Ewood Park and OLSJ sites. It was the intention that it would run as a four week summer camp in which all participants took home a meal as part of their visit.
With the national outlook around the Coronavirus already reducing the potential offering to a half day visit rather than full, staff were faced with a number of challenges before the programme even started.
With additional local restrictions about to be put in place, Rovers made the difficult decision to move to an entirely online digital offer, supplemented by activity packs and meals to be delivered to doors instead.
Simon Wootton who is the Trust's Pupil Wellbeing Officer has hailed the success of the Community Trust's improvisation when running the project.
"In our eyes, based on the very humbling and positive feedback we have received, it feels like it has been an enormous success. It justifies our decision to go a 100% online.
"Being able to serve the communnity in such a positive way has been very rewarding."
Rovers staff used one of their partner schools for the Premier League Inspires project in Our Lady & St John Catholic College. They used this as a distribution base. It has allowed staff to serve nearly 100 separate households across Blackburn with Darwen with relative ease.
The daily meal would arrive fresh each morning, prepared by Thomas Franks via Westholme Kitchens and would be stored in the refrigerated units at OLSJ until it was ready for delivery.
From there, six dedicated Rovers staff members in Catherine Curran, Katie Halligan, Ruth Tuson, Dan Fletcher, Martin Payne and Jess Clegg would go out each morning, at the same time, for the four weeks and deliver to their group of households whilst developing relationships at the door with participants and their families.
As well as food delivery, the Community Trust provided activity packs for participants with a variety of things to keep youngsters engaged, from the youngest participants aged four, all the way up to teenagers.
The packs included word games, puzzles, arts & crafts as well as Rovers themed challenges. Participants also received a goodby bag with pencils, rubbers and colouring pencils to get them started.
Each week the Community Trust ran compeitions with some incredible prizes for the lucky winners. These ranged from designing personalised FIFA cards, creating a brand new football kit, an art event and prizes for filling out feedback forms.
The prizes got better and better with each week Rovers footballs, backpacks, Rovers jerseys and as a special event in week four - three signed 2019/20 Rovers away shirts.
Simon went on to praise his fellow staff members for their efforts in a challenging time.
"The staff have been brilliant and so dedicated. They've been really focussed on trying to engage the youngsters at the door and some of the stories I've heard coming back have been genuinely humbling."
Community Trust staff have spread some much needed community cheer with children of the local community cycling down to meet their deliverer and running downstairs to see a friendly Rovers face when the doorbell rings. A real positive impact on the Blackburn with Darwen community.
Written feedback has been wonderful, with special praise for the delivery staff in particular.
“My son has really struggled this past few weeks with the lack of socialising since March," one parent said.
"Having daily interaction with a different face has helped him with his confidence.”
Another parent has felt Rovers' positive impact as the staff have helped ease the stress on Mums around the local area during the pandemic.
“The meals delivered Monday to Thursday were fantastic and a big help to stressed Mums during this pandemic. My son loved the colouring things provided and it has made me feel less isolated during this very challenging year. Thank you BRFC," she said.
The work Rovers staff have carried out has really benefited so many families locally. Blackburn Rovers Community Trust is just one of several providers with a Get Stuck In project planned for the summer of 2021.
Blackburn Rovers Community Trust CEO, Gary Robinson has praised all staff involved.
"Everything the Community Trust staff put their minds to is a huge success," he added.
"We're very lucky to have talented and dedicated staff to work on these projects. I'm delighted it has gone so well, especially in challenging times.
"Thank you to everyone for getting involved and contributing to the success of a fantastic project."