Wishgranter Wisdom: Turning a garden into a football pitch with our #WishMaker community

Dawn, Wishgranter

Being Welsh it’s almost a prerequisite that one sings (I definitely tick that box) and likes Rugby (I tick that box too) – it’s not, however in the blood to be a football fan!  So it was with some trepidation that this Rhondda girl looked at the new file on my desk – a wish for a football pitch in a back garden. 

I admit I don’t really know my Suarez’s from my Vardy’s but I do have a handle on the offside rule so figured a wish for a football pitch would be fairly straightforward once I’d done a bit of research.

I was wrong.

The wish was for an amazing young lad called Louis who is 9 years old and has undergone more surgery in his short life than any of us would ever want to experience in our own after being diagnosed with a brain tumour.

Louis with a large lump on his head holding a picture of Arsenal

Louis had drawn a picture of what his pitch should look like with goals, AstroTurf and, most importantly, white lines marked out on the pitch – he knew what he wanted and it would enable him to play his favourite games safely with his friends.  “OK”, I thought, “this will be easy – a few calls and we’ll be there”. Wrong again!

Louis’ pitch turned in to one of the biggest wishes I’ve ever worked on and had its fair share of hurdles along the way. 

The first challenge was to clear Louis’ garden of a few tree stumps and properly cut back the tress that surrounded the end of the garden – fortunately one of our volunteers came to the rescue by very kindly offering the services of her husband who’s qualified tree surgeon – thanks Nicola London (and Steve!). 

louis and tree surgeons

The next challenge was to find a company that would be willing to help us with the limited funding we had – “that won’t take long” I thought – in reality it took a few months.  Myself and Louis’ mum, Kerstin, began to despair, but we’re both tough cookies and we determined not to give in.

louis and dawn and jo porter

The determination paid off and finally a company was found and the deal was struck:  if we could provide enough volunteers to help clear and level the garden and haul the rubble and sand they could help with the install and materials – my heart leapt! 

That’s when the hard work really began…

Nomow confirmed everything with me on a Tuesday and said they could install the pitch – the following week!  Now my heart lurched – arghhh!  How to get hold of 30 or so willing volunteers in the space of three days, along with wheelbarrows, spades and skips – and would the dates be okay for Louis? 

The words of Dad’s Army came to mind “don’t panic”. 

We put a call out to volunteers and corporate partners and thankfully, people came forward – even when they knew it would be heavy work. 

We had 15 people each day for two days, and one of them offered not only to hire a skip for us, but also to bring along wheelbarrows, and mum offered to provide a plentiful supply of builders’ tea whilst we were working.

wishmaker team clearing the garden

I’m not altogether convinced that people knew what they had volunteered for as when we were met by a long slope down to the pitch along with many tons of earth and rubble to move (over 50 in the end) by wheelbarrow, there were a few concerned faces - mine included as I had to use muscles I’d forgotten I had! 

However, the sun was shining the mood was good and both of the heavy moving days turned out to be a really rewarding experience where people mucked in, hauled, shovelled, barrowed, drank tea and generally worked their socks off for one special little boy. 

I can’t express how very, very grateful I am to everyone that turned up and worked so hard with such good humour – there are too many to mention here but to all our corporate partners, volunteers, Robin the next door neighbour who gave us access through his garden, mum’s friends and various children, I want to say a HUGE thank you.  

dawn and louis on the footie pitch

We couldn’t have done this on our own. Everyone mucked in even the youngest of the kids friends who got to work with a sweeping brush – what an amazing thing to see so many people pulling together. 

The best part of each day had to be when Louis came home from school.  The work stopped and everyone watched as he took it all in, and a more grateful and happy little boy you couldn’t hope to meet – his smile made all the aching muscles worthwhile. 

There were a few hiccups, such as the late delivery of material which meant that a third day of help was needed, but all this pales into comparison when you look at what was achieved by a willing group of helpers and two of the most kind and caring workmen I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet – thanks to Tony and ‘dangerous Dave’ from Nomow.

And what of Louis and his new football pitch?  He and his family went on a much-needed holiday on day three of the install and didn’t return until everything was finished.  We were there when he got back from his holiday and his reaction was priceless. 

louis with family.

I’ve never seen anyone so excited, he ran around that pitch kicking the ball with such a wide smile on his face – it’s going to make a real difference to him and mum and dad are going to struggle to keep him indoors!

What a wish, one that will stay with me for a very long time for all the right reasons. 

Now, where’s that Radox bath………. 

Read Louis' story