Exeter Chiefs may be gearing up for a busy festive period of fixtures, but today members of the first-team squad took a morning out to pay a special festive visit to the Bramble Children’s Unit at the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital.
First team stars Haydn Thomas, Ben Moon, Brett Sturgess, Gareth Steenson, Michele Campagnaro, Ollie Atkins, Don Armand, Jack Yeandle, Matt Jess, Tom Johnson and Olly Woodburn, along with our very own Big Chief, took on the role of Santa Claus for one very special day and made their annual visit to the local hospital to spend time with youngsters who are facing up to the prospect of remaining on the wards for Christmas and beyond.
Ahead of this weekend's European Champions Cup clash away to Clermont Auvergne the players arrived at the RD&E armed with a stack of presents and clutching a collection of goodie bags filled with Chiefs merchandise to distribute to children on the wards.
Spending time not only delivering presents, but also sitting down and chatting with the young children and their families, the Chiefs team were delighted to help bring some early festive cheer to the Bramble Unit.
Prop Brett Sturgess said: "You have mixed emotions coming here because it’s nice to put smiles on people’s faces and try and cheer the kids up, but some of the wards are really tough. The cancer and intensive care wards are really difficult to cover, but we enjoy coming here and spending some time with the kids.
"For us as players and also as parents ourselves, it’s about giving something back to people who are suffering around Christmas time. We aim to cheer the kids up, give them a few presents and try and bring a smile to their day. It’s something that’s very important for all of us at the Chiefs."
Mum Alison Pearson, who was with five-year-old Isabel on the ward, added: "We were in here last year, and especially at this time of year you just feel a bit disconnected from the world, so it’s lovely that the Chiefs take the time to come in when it’s a really rubbish time for us in here."