As West Ham United head into 2008 on a high, the commitment to supporting worthy causes continues to be at the heart of the club.
The Thames Gateway Football Project is just such an initiative, helping disadvantaged young people across east London. It is a unique collaboration between local authorities, the private sector, local communities and three other clubs alongside West Ham United, namely Charlton Athletic, Dagenham & Redbridge and Millwall.
At a recent fundraising dinner held at the Boleyn Ground, project patron Sir Trevor Brooking was the guest of honour alongside other notable former Hammers players like Tony Gale, the defender turned football pundit who was the compere for the night. The evening raised more than £18,000, with those attending taking part in a special auction for various items of football memorabilia.
Sir Trevor, who served West Ham United to distinction between 1967 and 1984, said: "The Thames Gateway Youth Football Project is very close to my heart. It is a vehicle that allows youngsters to get involved with football and manages to reach kids who would not otherwise have such opportunities.
"We are in an area that actually has one of the lowest football participation rates in the country - London has 16 per cent of the UK's population but only three per cent of the facilities, and so many young people never have the chance to play.
"It is possible to see that many kids who struggle with numeracy and literacy are able to 'read' football, and engaging them in coaching sessions helps their decision making skills as well as nurturing their creativity. This worthwhile project is in need of a corporate sponsor or a main backer and I urge anyone to get involved in this way."
Organisers were delighted at the generosity of the 180 attendees on the night including a donation from Barclays Bank of £2,750. The money raised will help to fund the free coaching and playing opportunities and education, training and employment provided by the project.
Since its launch in 1998, TGYFP has worked with more than 45,000 young people - getting many off the streets, out of trouble and even enabling some to develop successful careers in professional football. The project runs after-school clubs, estates, fit-4-life incentive schemes, healthy living, young women's development and coach education programmes in Barking & Dagenham, Bexley, the City of London, Greenwich, Havering, Newham, Thurrock and Tower Hamlets.