THE season of goodwill was alive and kicking in Bolton when shoppers showed their support for Whites star Stuart Holden’s appeal to bring some festive cheer to those less fortunate.
The Wanderers midfielder was at the Middlebrook Retail and Leisure Park on Saturday to launch Holden’s Gifts of Hope by collecting items of food and clothing.
And Christmas shoppers said they were only too delighted to pitch in and help the player achieve his goal of helping local charities Bolton Young People’s Housing Scheme, Urban Outreach and Farnworth and Kearsley Food Bank, to which he will be delivering some of the parcels.
Bag after bag of food and clothing was dropped off outside Asda and Tesco as well as the the Reebok Stadium. The USA international came up with the idea after having a clothes clearout.
He said: “I would just drop them off at the local charity shop. I just wanted to do something bigger to help the wider Bolton community.”
He has teamed up with Bolton Wanderers Community Trust to launch the scheme, and said: “I have about 60 pairs of shoes in there. Being sponsored by Nike, they send you more shoes than you need. It’s a great way of using them to give something back to the community.
“I have filled three big bin bags and have asked the lads if they could throw some stuff in as well.”
Players have donated their designer gear, and on Saturday the people of Bolton contributed bags of shopping and clothes, with Stuart on hand to thank many of them.
The 27-year-old said: “The support has been unbelievable, we have filled the van a number of times over.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but it has had a snowball effect.”
He added: “It is important for me not only to thank the people but also to help deliver the parcels next week — that will be rewarding to see what difference these donations have made.
“It has been a community effort and about thinking about others at this time of year.”
Adam Cooper, aged 14, from Little Lever, said: “What Stuart is doing is a really good idea.
“It is about helping others at this time of year, and when people are buying presents it encourages them to buy something extra.”
Stuart, whose father died of cancer, has a charity in America, Holden’s Heroes, which helps children who are fighting the illness.
The footballer is now back in training after completing his rehabilitation for a knee injury.
Stuart said: “Charity is always something that has been important to me.
“I have always wanted to get more involved here in England and Bolton.
“With the injury, I wasn’t really around, but now I am back. I want to get back to doing normal things that I like to do. One of those is helping out in charitable ways.
“This is a great entry point for me to broaden Holden’s Heroes and really start to help.”
He added: “No matter how bad you think you have it, there is always somebody else in life who has it worse.”