On Saturday 25th February, as Dundee FC welcomed the league leaders to Dens Park, Community Director Jacqui Robertson was welcoming a familiar face to the Bobby Cox Stand, as this week’s charity was one which is very close to the heart of one of Dundee FC Supporters Society’s own volunteers, Billy Naismith.
Billy’s son Cameron was born with microphthamia in one eye, and a nystagmus in the other, which resulted in him having a prosthetic eye fitted. Also arriving to help out was Grant Cook, the father of another volunteer of the same name, who has had a prosthetic eye since he was nine years old. Grace Stuart of the Eyeless Trust, along with husband Neil were also in attendance, and all were there for one simple reason, to raise awareness of what is a vital service for those who use it.
As Grace explained, "We are quite a small charity, and as such we don’t really have much of a fund for raising awareness, so to get the chance to come to someplace like Dens, and let the Dundee fans see what we do was fantastic. We generally try to use any money raised supporting families who need our help, there is a lot of travelling back and forward to London for example, Moorfields Eye Hospital do some fantastic work, but for a family to be travelling up and down, it can be quite expensive. So any money we raise goes to help with those costs, or maybe sending a family away for a short break, because sometimes that is what they need.
"I really appreciated being at the match and having the opportunity to make people aware of the Eyeless Trust. The people I spoke to were very interested and both my husband and I enjoyed the match. It was a bit of nostalgia for him as he was a student in Dundee a long time ago. I think it is great what Dundee are doing, we had a lot of help from all the Society volunteers, nothing was too much trouble for them and the day was a great success. I would like to thank Billy for bringing us to the attention of Dundee FC Supporters Society, and Jacqui for all her work arranging the day. The signed merchandise was great as well, and hopefully it can be used to raise some funds to help families with children who need our help."
Society volunteer Billy Naismith is involved with all the charities that visit Dens, but this particular visit obviously was a bit special, "The Eyeless Trust have been, and continue to be a great help to me and my family. When Cameron was first diagnosed, we had not heard of the Eyeless Trust, but when the consultant at Moorfields mentioned them, and the work they did, we got in touch with them.
"The help they gave us was fantastic, they looked after us really well. For me then, to have this opportunity to give something back is great and I would really like to thank Jacqui and the Supporters Society for giving me the chance to do that. The day went really well, Cameron got to see Dundee for the first time, and hopefully the bug will catch him, and in a few years he will become a regular fixture at Dens."
For Grant Cook Snr. the story of his prosthetic eye is slightly different, as he explained. "I lost my eye when I was nine, I was out playing with my pals, and we were skiffing bits of metal about, and one just caught me in the eye. It was a long time ago now, but as far as I can remember, it was one of those things, that while not great, didn’t really have much effect on me, and I think for these kids, and their parents, I think that is something important for them to know.
"I grew up in a fairly normal manner I suppose, even after losing the eye, I played football with some pretty good sides, I still play golf now, I spent a lot of time at work driving a car, so although it is not the most pleasant thing to happen, it certainly did nothing to hamper me. To be honest, I got used to it, and after a while it stopped being an issue at all really. What I want to say is that I never considered it a handicap. I only really had a problem once, and that was about twenty years ago, I went into hospital for a cataract operation on my good eye, and I woke up with it bandaged up. The doctor said I could go pretty much straight away, and could return to work no bother, until I pointed out the other eye was glass, and I was effectively blind with the bandage on...... they kept me in for a few days."
"When I arrived at Dens for the game, I wasn’t really sure what to expect, obviously my son Grant was there, but I met Grace and Neil, and they were very welcoming, as were everyone at Dens, and although I had never been involved with the Eyeless Trust before, I thought it was important to give them a hand. When I lost my eye, the only treatment was the local NHS, they just treated me and sent me home really, and although I never knew any better, I can appreciate how having someone there to help would only be good."
The Eyeless Trust is obviously not an extremely well known charity, but for the Society and Jacqui, those charities are just as important as some of the better known visitors to Dens recently. The visit by the Eyeless Trust shows that for any charity, a visit to Dens is a viable option for raising awareness.
Jacqui said, "It was a real pleasure to welcome a charity that meant so much to someone who has helped the Society to make the Community Initiatives a success. While the Eyeless Trust may not be well known it doesn't make it any less important than any other charity and we’re delighted to be able to offer them the opportunity to raise awareness of their work. I can genuinely say that each and every charity seems to have had some effect on our fans, some of whom have made contact. It makes it all so worthwhile."