Mentor is the lead partner in a new kinship care programme run by Big Hearts Community Trust that seeks to use "the power of the club's crest" to support kinship care families in Edinburgh and beyond.
Families Together is back! What better way to celebrate the start of a further three years' funding from the Big Lottery than with the launch of an exciting new partnership with Hearts* football club.
The scheme, which was launched at Tynecastle two weeks ago, will run a weekly after-school club for children offering football coaching, music tuition and other activities, and a support group for carers providing information, advice and peer support.
The initiative is already a success, with over 100 families attending an open day during school half-term holidays. The event brought in a wide range of partner organisations to offer information and advice for carers; and Big Hearts laid on football coaching, music workshops, stadium tours and face-painting, as well as the chance to meet Hearts stars Soufian El Hassanoui and Arnaud Djoum, who posed for photos, signed autographs and even found time to show off their soccer skills in a game of 5-a-side towards the end of the day.
Heather McVeigh, Scotland Director at Mentor, was thrilled that the partnership had got off to such a positive start:
"We are thrilled to be working in partnership with Big Hearts to drive forward awareness and support for kinship care families. It is fantastic that a major football club is using its credence to promote kinship care and provide opportunities and activities that many kinship children and carers would never be able to access."
Mentor's enthusiasm was reflected in the feedback from kinship carers and the response to the new after-school club. We have already had two fantastic weeks of activities, which has proved so popular that we have had to start a waiting list.
— Kinsfolk Carers (@kinsfolkcarers) October 20, 2015
In a parallel initiative, the club is also appealing to Hearts season ticket holders to donate their tickets when they are unable to attend the game themselves. Several kinship care families have already had the chance to see Hearts continue their good start to the season in beating Ross County at Tynecastle two weeks ago.
In the launch event alone, Big Hearts has done so much to raise the profile of kinship care in Scotland – as well as giving scores of children a day that they’ll never forget. But the long-term potential of working alongside a major football club with an amazing team of community volunteers is enormous. Big Hearts is redefining how a football club can contribute to its local community and we’re thrilled to be a part of it, for the benefit of kinship care families everywhere.
* 'Other football clubs are available.' Mentor is strictly non-partisan – we also secure unused season tickets for city rivals Hibs!