SWIMMING champ Josef Craig received much more than he bargained for when he was asked to present a cheque to a South Tyneside charity by his older fans.
Residents of Patrick Cain house were overjoyed when the Paralympic gold medallist agreed to visit them at the sheltered accommodation in South Eldon Street, South Shields.
They were keen for the 15-year-old, who smashed two world records in the S7 400m Freestyle at the recent London games, to present the borough’s branch of the Alzheimer’s Society with a cheque for £100 raised by the tenants.
But what the St Joseph’s RC pupil didn’t know was a group of pensioners – the Friends of Patrick Cain House – had also dug deep to hand the teen £100 to put towards his swimming fund.
And after finding out he was desperate to get his hands on a Newcastle United shirt ever since he won his medal, the group also raised enough to not only buy a shirt complete with his name and the number 1 printed on the back, but also a NUFC holdall, cap, scarf, towel and his club’s badge in a special frame handmade by one of the residents.
Overjoyed by his gifts, a stunned Josef, who has cerebral palsy and who battled against Graves disease last year, said: “I was just expecting everybody to say well done and ask questions – I never expected this!
“Again people have gone above and beyond to congratulate me on something I’ve done.
“The gifts are just out of this world. I have always wanted a Newcastle top ever since the new season started but haven’t been able to get one. It just means the world to me. I can’t wait to go to another match so I can wear my top.
“The residents have been so kind and generous. They have been talking away to me and have made me and my family feel welcome – I have absolutely loved being here.”
Throughout his visit, Josef posed for photos with residents wearing his medal, spent time chatting with them and joined them outside as they watched a fox who had come into the garden.
Speaking on behalf of the residents, Richard Nightingale said: “It’s been absolutely fantastic night – everyone wants to adopt him. He is a brilliant lad who is so genuine.
“When the residents found out he was coming to visit they were so excited and were really looking forward to seeing him. We all watched him when he was swimming, and when he won his gold medal we were all shouting and cheering at the television.
“So to have Josef come in, talk to them, have his picture taken with them and allowing them to wear his medal really has meant the world to them, as for some they have never met a celebrity. It will be a night they will remember for ever.
“He is such a caring young man and we are all so proud of him. It was a great feeling to see his face light up when we handed him his Newcastle goodies.
“We must also thank his parents Kim and Ken, as they were lovely – it really was a nice night.”
A further cheque of £100 raised by the tenants of Patrick Cain House was earlier presented to the South Tyneside Hospital’s special care baby unit.
The Friends of Patrick Cain House have pledged to raise £100 every year for Josef to add to his swim fund.