Youngsters with additional support needs got an early Christmas present lastweekend when Celticmanager Neil Lennon and a host of other Old Firm stars dropped in on their Christmas party.
Hosted at the home of property tycoon James Kean, the action-packed day saw Rangers greats Ally McCoist, Ian Durrant and John ‘Bomber’ Brown joined by Celtic aces James Forrest, Paddy McCourt and Anthony Stokes.
Along with Lennon, the footballers toured the sports hall within the grounds of Kean’s estate, chatting to youngsters and their friends and family as well as posing for pictures with fans.
Over 70 volunteers – including sixth year pupils from St Andrew’s and St Bride’s High School – helped organise the Christmas extravaganza run in conjunction with East Kilbride Community Trust and East Kilbride Football Club.
Additional support needs units from Greenburn and Greenhills Primary Schools were joined by kids from EKFC’s Sunday Club.
Mr Kean also opened up his stables for the children where a choir sang carols from a nativity scene acted out by volunteers.
There were even reindeer to light up the youngsters’ morning and they got up close to regular occupants including sheep and horses.
A few metres away in the sports hall, there was a whole host of festive treats to enjoy for adults and children alike. There was Santa’s Grotto, a disco and a soft area for the kids to play games, while the adults enjoyed the delights of the buffet and the free beer and mulled wine on offer.
All the children received gift boxes packed full of goodies as well and Celtic manager Neil Lennon was full of praise for James Kean and the work he does with the disability units.
Lennon told the News: “It’s pretty special what James does here, but it’s not just for Christmas, he does things like this the whole year round.
“A lot of people should take a leaf out of his book.
“He’s got an amazing facility here and it’s a very welcoming place. He opened the stables, had a disco, a choir and he even brought reindeers into the stables for the kids.
“He’s just that type of guy. He’s been very successful in his own right with what he’s done in business, but he’s given a lot back to the community here and the kids had a ball.
“James has done so much for the disabled kids with the club they have going here.”
And the Parkhead boss, who has guided his team into the last 16 of Europe’s premier football competition, the Champions League, admitted the party was a lot livelier than his Christmas will be.
He added: “Christmas in the Lennon household is very quiet compared to this.
“We (Celtic) have got a game on Boxing Day so it will be Christmas morning and some Christmas Dinner then we will be working for a biton Christmas night before the game.
“But I love Christmas, it’s such a special time of the year and when you see things like this, it just makes it all worthwhile.”
Meanwhile, Rangers boss Ally McCoist – who is also an EKCT trustee – made an appearance later in the day.
He said: “To be able to play a small role in a day for the kids like Sunday was just so special.
“The smiles on their faces said it all and I think everyone from EKCT and EKFC who has worked with the group all year enjoyed the party as much as the children.
“They are a brilliant bunch of kids and I am proud of the role EKCT is able to play in making their lives better, that’s why we set the charity up in the first place.”
The organisers wished to thank Kean Construction (Scotland) Ltd, W. Donnelly and Co Plumbers, Ferrari Packaging Ltd, Village Steak House, Celtic FC, Rangers FC, SJ Carpets, Claremont Office Furniture, Thorntonhall Farm House Ice Cream, Travis Perkins, PDM, Knox Brothers and Morrisons for supporting the day.
Chief executive of EKCT, Monique McAdams, added: “I want to extenda massive thank you to everyonewho helped make this party such a success by volunteering, organising, donating or taking part as an invited guest.
“It was greatly appreciated andmost importantly fun for all the children.”