A pair of gold-hearted Boro supporters who spend their free time and own money brightening the lives of disabled and underprivileged children and young adults have received a Teesside Hero Award.
Long-time friends and Thornaby residents Jimmy Wilson and Jenny Fowles have been honoured by high profile charity Teesside Philanthropic Foundation for all of the voluntary work they do with Boro Real Fans Believe in Dreams.
The self-funded group – also known as The Dream Family – started in 2015, when Jimmy’s promptings on Facebook fans’ pages led to £1,300 being raised in less than 24 hours so a deaf young Boro fan and his dad could go to Wembley to watch the Championship play-off final against Norwich.
Since then they have helped provide some cheer to around 3,500 Teesside youngsters suffering a range of disabilities and from less fortunate backgrounds, through organised Boro matchday experiences and a range of activities.
Jimmy and Jenny have a dozen Boro season tickets and host six children and one of their parents or carers at every home game in the Generation Red Family Zone, giving them a history tour and goodie bag before kick-off.
And they put on a range of trips when they aren’t supporting their favourite football club, taking youngsters bowling and bell boating during the summer and half-term holidays and organising various other excursions and family-based parties.
That’s all despite juggling the demands of their own busy working and personal lives, which have recently been hit by adversity.
Father-of-two Jimmy – who runs his own national fence company – lost wife Linda to a lung condition in June 2017 – while mother-of-one Jenny is registered disabled and had a heart attack at the Riverside while attending Boro’s Good Friday home defeat to Wolves in March.
The kind-hearted duo remain committed to their cause however and said the £1,000 they received along with their Teesside Hero Award will help as they look to future-proof the group.
Yvonne Ferguson, supporter liaison officer for Boro – one of Teesside Philanthropic Foundation’s patrons – presented Jimmy, 59, and Jenny, 49, with their award before Boro’s recent home game to Aston Villa.
“The award is nice and totally unexpected, and the money is a massive bonus because we have to come up with a few thousand pounds to renew our season tickets in March,” Jimmy said.
“But I’m sure I speak for both of us when I say that neither of us do this for awards of self gratification.
“Seeing the kids smile and helping them to come out of themselves and go home with a good memory is award enough.”
“That’s exactly what we do it for, seeing kids smile, and we’ll keep going for as long as we are able to find the money,” added Jenny, who said she only followed her doctor’s advice to rest up for two days following her heart attack before “getting straight back to it”.
Jimmy and Jenny were nominated for their Teesside Hero Award by Tony Wedlake, who was with Boro Real Fans Believe in Dreams from the start.
Tony was the proud recipient of a Teesside Hero Award in August 2016 and felt Jimmy and Jenny deserved similar recognition.
“It was one of the proudest days of my life when I won my award, but I also had a heavy heart because Jimmy and Jenny hadn’t won one,” he added.
“I believe they are true Teesside heroes – they are two amazing people with hearts of gold and would give anybody their last £10.
“They have been on an amazing journey, and along the way have helped struggling families with furniture, toys and anything else they could get.”