Dreams came true for 15 local children this week as they sat down for a special Christmas dinner with the entire Aston Villa first team squad and head coach Dean Smith.
The group, who were made up of children referred by Birmingham Children’s Trust and fans who have endured difficult personal circumstances, spent the day at Bodymoor Heath training ground.
Here they watched the team train and had a kickaround with their favourite players before they tucked into their festive feast.
The experience, which was organised by the Aston Villa Foundation, came as a complete shock to the youngsters, who had no idea what was in store when they arrived at Villa Park.
Head of Foundation Guy Rippon said: “These are all children and young people who are facing difficult personal circumstances.
“We invited a range of children including some in foster care, living in residential homes, children with disabilities and some who have suffered family bereavements recently.
"They’re children who deserve a nice day out and a memorable experience around Christmas and we at Aston Villa are in a privileged position to be able to do something special for them.”
Parent Nicola Chare said: “I'd like to say a massive thank you for giving my son the experience he had with the Aston Villa team today, he hasn't stopped talking about it, so thank you for making this Christmas special.”
Birmingham Children’s Trust work with some of the most disadvantaged children and young people in the city, and Corporate Parenting Manager Natalie Loon believes the day will live forever in the memory of those involved.
She added: “We were absolutely thrilled by the generosity of Aston Villa and the kindness of all the players who spent their time with our children.
“Every one of our children and young people had an amazing day; enjoying a training session, having lunch and being given presents from the players.
“They really did make memories that will last forever. One young person even told us afterwards that it was the best day of his life!”
The event was organised as part of the club’s ‘Supporting Our Own’ scheme, which sees the club and Foundation working to support the local community, as well as the wider Aston Villa family.
The children’s day was topped off after Christmas lunch with the players presenting each child with a goodie bag of Christmas presents.