Aston Villa and Acorns make a winning team this Christmas

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Aston Villa and Acorns make a winning team this Christmas

Stephen Ireland, midfielder for top Birmingham-based football club Aston Villa, has teamed up with Birmingham & West Midlands based Acorns Children’s Hospice to design a charity Christmas card.

The Irish player worked with eight-year-old hospice resident, Joel to design the card that doubles as a nifty Christmas tree decoration. According to Acorns’ website the card, available from Acorns charity shops around the Heart of England, was designed to “symbolise the special partnership between Acorns and Aston Villa and to thank supporters on behalf of all Acorns children and families” and contains the signatures of both Joel and Stephen.

Acorns, with hospices in Birmingham, Walsall and Worcester, provides free-of-charge specialist care and support for nearly 600 life-limited and life-threatened children and young people, and their families.

Footy mad Joel is just one of the children Acorns helps. He is thought to be one of only two children in the world diagnosed with proteus-like syndrome – an extremely complex condition that causes accelerated overgrowth and abnormal blood vessels, along with a long list of other health problems. Because the condition is so rare, it is difficult to predict and Joel has spent several long periods of time in hospital since he was born. This includes a stay of seven months earlier this year when Joel underwent an operation to amputate his right leg.

The Christmas card is not a one-off piece of teamwork. The Acorns & Villa partnership has been going strong since 2006 and even saw Villa display Acorns’ logo in place of a corporate sponsor on their famous claret and blue shirts for the 2008/9 season.

Villa fans are encouraged to follow their on-field heroes’ example and join fundraising efforts. It costs Acorns £450, the goal set for fundraisers by the Villa 450 Challenge, to provide just one day of care for a child with a life-limiting or life-threatening condition.

Acorns in Selly Oak, Birmingham, was only the third children’s hospice in the world when it was opened in 1988. Since then they’ve opened two further hospices: Acorns in the Black Country (in 1999), followed by Acorns for the Three Counties (in March 2005).

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