Sheffield Wednesday’s new midfielder Will Vaulks is re-pledging support for his favourite charity, Bluebell Wood Children's Hospice, now he’s back in South Yorkshire - and is a new dad too.

The former Rotherham United star says his one-year-old son Roman has made him even more determined to give time to the hospice he first got involved in six years ago.

Will said: “When I signed for Wednesday it was immediately in my mind to get involved at Bluebell again. The hospice still means so much to me. It is the most worthy cause you can imagine.

"Being a dad to Roman has given me first-hand experience of how precious our children are to us.

"It really brought home to me what families go through when their children are seriously ill and what an important role children’s hospices play.”

Since opening in 2008, Bluebell Wood Children’s Hospice has cared for children and young adults with life-shortening and life-threatening conditions across South Yorkshire, North Derbyshire, North Nottinghamshire and parts of North Lincolnshire.

While the hospice has temporarily suspended its clinical services due to staff shortages, the focus is firmly on family support - including sibling support, counselling, music therapy, wellbeing groups for parents and family fun days. 

“I think it’s important for everyone to give back, but especially footballers, who get so much support from the communities they play in, to give back,” said Will, who first visited the North Anston hospice in 2016 with his Millers team-mates, just after joining the club.

He remembers being surprised to find an atmosphere full of laughter and happiness and when he later spotted an appeal for volunteers on Twitter, he signed up immediately.

“I was aware I had time on my hands being a footballer and after visiting the hospice, I knew it was a place I wanted to give my time to,” said Will.

He became a regular face, volunteering a day a week, and went on to become a Hospice Ambassador in 2018. Well-aware that Bluebell Wood needs to find £14,000 a day to operate, in 2018 he was locked up in a mock prison for a sponsored ‘Jail and Bail’, which raised over £10,000.

“My life at Bluebell Wood could not have been more different to my life in football. It is so competitive and you think the end of the world is not being in the team on a Saturday,” he added.

“Then you go into the hospice and see what other people are going through. You meet children who battle life-threatening illnesses every day and parents facing bereavement with such dignity; it puts life into perspective.

“I especially loved building relationships with families and supporting the brothers and sisters of children the hospice cares for, and this is what I hope to do again.

“Often siblings can feel slightly lost and experience complex emotions around their situation. I tried to help by spending a bit of time with them, playing games, hide and seek, football, soft play, and a bit of football, too.”

One family in particular is keen to see Will again.

Tazim Ghani’s son Ibraheem Nadeem passed away at the hospice in 2019 aged 15 from a rare degenerative condition. Her daughter Fathima has the same condition and is still supported by Bluebell Wood.

 “It’s lovely to hear Will is back in Sheffield supporting Bluebell Wood. Will spent a lot of time with my family, particularly Ibraheem and Fathima’s little brother Moosa. They had a special bond, and Will would regularly come to the hospice on a Friday evening after training to play with him in the ball pit or on the PlayStation,” she said.

“Moosa still talks about those times; after everything our family has gone through he still remembers the fun he had with Will, and I know he’s so excited to see him again.”

Rebecca Lund, Volunteer Services Manager at Bluebell Wood commented: “Will moved to Cardiff City in the spring of 2019 but maintained his role as a hospice ambassador despite challenges posed by the pandemic. We will be welcoming him back with open arms.

“During his time with Rotherham United he was a brilliant support at the hospice. He was always happy to roll up his sleeves to do whatever was needed, whether it was admin work and emptying collection tins in the fundraising office or supporting the care team with our children and young adults.

He’s a wonderful role model for our children and young people - on and off the pitch. And it goes without saying we will be cheering him on in his Wednesday colours! 

Would you like to be a volunteer like Will? Click on the button below to find out more!

Volunteer at Bluebell Wood