Seven-year-old Emily attends the Bluebirds Ability sessions to support with her Autism Spectrum Disorder. Over recent years, her parents have lived with the emotional strain and uncertainty of not knowing whether Emily would ever be able to walk or talk...
19-year-old Aaron moved from London to Cardiff to study at college. Aaron has previously struggled with his temper, as well as being exposed to violence, drugs and being threatened with knife crime on the streets.
Aaron found out about the Cardiff City FC Foundation Kicks programme from a friend at college and started attending sessions a few years ago. Kicks - a youth outreach programme for 11-19-year-olds – aims to create safer communities and reduce offending by giving young people across South Wales access to free football sessions and opportunities for personal development.
Since being involved with Kicks, Aaron has found a safe and trusted environment, with coaches and mentors to support him.
"Kicks gave me and a lot of the boys I know something positive to do. It's changed me as a person completely over the three years I've been attending, it's helped improve my attitude, and helped me with how to apply myself off the pitch.
"Kicks has made me feel safer on the streets, I feel safe even going to different areas across the city to visit friends that I’ve made through Kicks.
"Since I started attending Kicks, I’ve not been hanging around on the streets. I’ve been threatened by a knife in the past just because I’m on the streets but coming to Kicks has made me less of an aggressive person."
The Coronavirus pandemic meant that we had to temporarily close our Kicks sites and re-think our approach overnight to ensure we were still reaching the young people, like Aaron, who needed our support.
The Foundation’s Kicks team designed a series of online activities that young people aged 12-19 could enjoy safely from home. These included a mentoring service, well-being check-ins, group video calls, interactive football and fitness challenges, as well as sessions on healthy living and community safety.
For Aaron, digital Kicks provided routine during a difficult time.
"The Kicks sessions online made me feel mentally and physically healthy. I’ve been using the training and football sessions as an encouragement to get up early in the morning instead of lounging around."