Whitchurch Alport had a very special team mascot for their game at St Helens Town on Saturday.
Alport captain Simon Everall was accompanied in leading the team out by 14 year old Melissa Grace, who has Angelman Syndrome and is unable to speak.
She also suffers from epilepsy and is sometimes fortunate to get more than three or four hours sleep a night. One of the conditions of the illness is that she always has a permanent smile, even if she’s in terrible pain.
She requires full-time care from her mum, and a fund raising campaign known as Melissa's Smile has been set up to help provide Melissa with the things that she will need to help make her life a little easier.
Alport’s media man Martin Wild explained how the arrangements for the day were made.
“Since Luke Goddard came to the club, we’ve had a very clear focus both on and off the pitch,” he said.
“We pride ourselves on our community ethos not just in Whitchurch but farther afield. Three times last season we demonstrated this at opposition grounds - twice at City of Liverpool - supporting their foodbank initiative and then putting £130 into a bucket collection for the Owen McVeigh Foundation at the play-off semi final - and then again when we went to St Helens back in April.
''We’d become aware of Melissa's Smile through Town's Twitter feed. We donated 200 pounds that night which increased to 300 when an anonymous donation from Whitchurch followed.
"I've kept in touch with Kat - Melissa's mum - and said we'd be honoured to have Melissa lead us out when we were next in St Helens, and we were delighted when she agreed. We gave Melissa an Alport hat and scarf and all the lads signed one of our #WeAreAlport t-shirts so she had something to remember her day by.
"We're very proud of what this football club stands for and although the win was great, it was equally rewarding to be able to do something nice for Melissa. It’s not just about football here at Alport, it’s more than that and doing something nice like this is important. It makes us stand out from the rest and it was our pleasure.”
Melissa's mum Kat said: “Both the team and the Alport supporters were so kind and friendly to Melissa, it really was a pleasure to come along to the game on Saturday.
"We have some fantastic photos to keep and share with her many Twitter friends.”
To find out more about the Melissa's Smile campaign you can click here, or follow @Melissassmile on Twitter.
Melissa is pictured below leading the Alport team out alongside captain Simon Everall. Photo courtesy of Kevin Warburton.