Sunderland stars have brought festive cheer to poorly youngsters at hospitals across the North East.
Members of the Black Cats first-team squad donned their best Christmas jumpers and handed out presents to children at Sunderland Royal Hospital, Durham University Hospital and the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle, which houses the children’s cancer treatment centre for the North East.
Special goody bags containing Sunderland gifts, selection boxes and match tickets brought a smile to the faces of youngsters faced with spending the festive period in hospital as the players signed autographs and posed for photos with the children and their families.
The lads were taking time out after training ahead of a difficult run of fixtures over the Christmas period, which sees Sam Allardyce’s men visit Chelsea and Manchester City before welcoming Liverpool to the Stadium of Light in the last game of 2015. Striker Jermain Defoe, who visited Sunderland Royal Hospital, said: “There’s no good time to be in hospital but it is especially hard for children and their families at Christmas.
“Meeting the kids and talking to their parents is a small gesture that we hope can help to make things a little bit better for them at a difficult time.” Steven Fletcher visited Durham University Hospital and added: “It’s very hard seeing children who are poorly, especially when you have children of your own, but I hope that we have helped to bring a few smiles to their faces with our visit.
“It was also important for us to recognise and thank the nursing staff who do such a great job and work tremendously hard over the festive period.”
Among those also taking time to meet with young fans were goalkeeper Costel Pantillimon, defender Sebastian Coates, forward Fabio Borini and full-back Patrick van Aanholt.