South Shields family launches appeal for Sunderland AFC youngster’s dream football scholarship in America
The family of Sunderland youth academy footballer are hoping to fulfill his ambitions of playing and coaching the beautiful game in the USA.
Luke Thomas, 18, of Centenary Avenue, South Shields, has been awarded a partial scholarship with a college-affiliated team through the NJCAA (National Junior College Athletic Association) in America.
The talented young footballer has played as a midfielder for Sunderland AFC youth academy sides for much of the past two years.
Now, the ‘soccer’-mad youngster’s family is looking to help support the him financially as he aims to take on the placement which would see him playing and coaching the sport he loves overseas.
His grandmother, Eileen Thomas, said being able to undertake the scholarship would mean the world to the committed 18-year-old after years of hard graft and personal sacrifice.
"It’s all he’s ever done – ever since he could stand up, pretty much,” she said.
"He’s worked so hard. With his time training at the academy and pursuing the scholarship he’s had to miss out on a lot of the things his friends have been doing.
"Schoolwork didn’t always come easily, but he’s really got a lot of ambition when it comes to football. He’s dedicated so much to it.”
Luke’s family is setting out to raise around £14,000 to cover the remaining costs, including payment for a recruitment firm that helped him secure the NJCAA placement.
According to Mrs Thomas, they have already managed to raise around £2,000 – with a GoFundMe page having been set up a number of months ago.
She said the family was thrilled with the support received already from the local community and businesses.
"You need to provide a certain amount of money up front, with it being America,” she said.
"And then, with flights and health insurance and all the rest, we’ve estimated it would be around £14,000 that we’d need to raise.
"I’ve written to so many people now. I’ve approached a number of businesses, including Barbour – which donated a jacket to the cause. I added that to the fundraiser as well.
"We’re just trying to do all we can to make this a reality for him.”