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Special guest makes Albertís Christmas

Lou Macari and Albert

Each year, the Young at Heart project throws Christmas parties at each of its groups. For the older men and women who attend the four social groups the parties offer the opportunity to celebrate with their friends.

This year the Meir group welcomed a special guest as Lou Macari, former Stoke City manager, dropped by to hand-deliver a present to one of the group’s members, Albert Dawson, who has been attending the group with his wife since it first opened.

Earlier this year Albert suffered a stroke and was later diagnosed with cancer. Since then, he has been unable to attend the group and says he hasn’t left the house in six months. So Matt Ford, Young at Heart project co-ordinator, decided to surprise him and make his Christmas extra special.

As well as arranging an enjoyable party for all members and volunteers, complete with the Lord Mayor of Stoke, Father Christmas, food and entertainment, Matt put a lot of hard work into making sure Albert and his wife could come along.

The Christmas celebration was opened by the Lord Mayor, Cllr Ross Irving, and Lady Mayoress Christine Warren. Everyone then enjoyed a festive lunch, helped by donations from the Etruscan Masonic Lodge and Stoke City Community Fund.

During the festivities, Matt asked Albert if he would mind speaking on the microphone about football, as the pair had frequently chatted about Stoke at previous meetings. Matt asked Albert if he could recall a former Stoke City manager who also played for Manchester United. Albert replied, “Yes, that was Lou Macari.” Matt then told him to turn around and, to his great surprise, Lou and Father Christmas walked in the room bearing Christmas presents for all.

Matt said, “Albert jumped off his chair! He was very emotional. The two of them really hit it off and couldn’t stop talking. There was a reporter there trying to get their photo and ask them questions, but they could barely get a word in.”

/media/news/library/lou-macari-3.jpgAlbert said, “It was a complete surprise when he walked in. I didn’t expect anything like this.”

Albert started going to Stoke City matches as a boy in the 1930s and has been a season ticket holder since 1939. His love for the club has been passed onto his own children, grandchildren and even his great-grandchildren. He said it was wonderful to meet the former manager.

Matt said, “Albert and his wife have been coming to the group since day one. They’re both valuable members and have been through a lot lately with Albert’s health concerns, so we wanted to give them a really special Christmas. It went marvellously. For about five or ten minutes they just talked and Albert seemed to have forgotten about his cancer. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.”

Lou spoke to guests, saying that Albert is an inspiration having fought his health problems. He gave Albert a signed photo from his playing days which Albert declared he is going to show off to his grandchildren on Christmas day.

The former Stoke manager stayed for the rest of the afternoon, helping give out presents, chatting to partygoers and volunteers and having his photo taken with anyone who asked.

Before the party, Albert had been concerned he may only be able to stay for an hour because of his health, especially as it was his first trip out of the house in six months. But he was in such good spirits he stayed for the whole four hours. He has even said to Matt he wants to try and come back to the group more often.

Matt said, “I spoke to Albert afterwards and he was so happy. He said it was the best party he’d been to and he’ll never forget it. It was just perfect.”



The Young at Heart project runs social groups, befriending and support at home for older people in Stoke and North Staffordshire who are at risk of isolation. To find out more, visit the Young at Heart pages on this website. 

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