FAMOUS fund-raiser Keira Arnold, the 10-year-old from Derker who has hit local and national headlines with her amazing work for Dr Kershaw’s Hospice, will be cheering for Roughyeds in Sunday’s must-win game against Whitehaven at the Vestacare Stadium.
“She’s a Roughyeds’ fanatic,” said her grandma, Julie Smith, herself a lifelong fan. “She was a babe in arms when she was taken to her first game. And she’s club mascot Roary’s No 1 fan. She thinks he’s great.
“She’s been brought up on Oldham Rugby. She’s raised money for the hospice all over the place, but Sunday will be home-from-home for her. Roughyeds is a big part of her life.”
The family follow Roughyeds to all corners of the country and it was the friendships they’ve forged at Newcastle Thunder that led to Thunder fan Kevin Barlow stepping in to assist Keira in her fund-raising drive.
He arranged with Thunder to offer a prize of two places in their hospitality suite when Oldham play in Newcastle on Sunday week, August 19.
The prize is currently being raffled off among Roughyeds fans and Keira will be selling tickets, priced £2.50, at the Vestacare on Sunday in between cheering on her favourite rugby team . . . and her favourite mascot.
Her mum Stacey may be there, but she will definitely be supported by grandparents Julie and Mark Smith; uncle Dave Thomas, who never misses a match; her little brother Jack; and her 80-year-old great, great uncle Cliff Wroe, all the way from Brisbane, Australia.
“We’re all Roughyeds mad, apart from Cliff. He’s never been to a rugby league game before, but he’ll probably be hooked after this !”
Amazingly, Keira has raised more than £8,000 in little more than a year — all for Dr Kershaw’s in memory of her dad, Stephen, who died in Dr Kershaw’s from cancer when she was four.
The hospice has now set up a special fund called Keira’s Wishes from which all money she raises helps terminally ill patients to fulfil their final wishes.
A few weeks ago, at a glittering ceremony in London, she won Young Fundraiser of the Year at the National Institute of Fundraising Awards Night.
Then, a few days later at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry she collected from Andy Burnham the Mayor’s Special Contribution Award at the first Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Champions’ Ceremony.
Presenting the award, Andy said: “She’s the pride of Greater Manchester; an inspiration to us all.”
Looking ahead to Sunday’s big game at the Vestacare Stadium. grandma Julie said:
“Keira’s fund-raising has just topped £8,000. We are very proud of her.
“She’s shy really. She doesn’t like the limelight, but Oldham Rugby is in her blood, and has been since the day she was born, so she’ll be okay on Sunday.”
Speaking on behalf of the club, Anne Kearns said:
“Keira is a remarkable little girl, clearly, and the club will be proud and privileged to give her and the family all the support we can on Sunday.”