With Neil Diamond’s ‘Sweet Caroline’ playing in the background an emotional Rhys Bennett brought an end to his 12-hour fundraising marathon tonight with a heartfelt thank you to the hundreds of United fans who had logged on to both donate and to help to raise awareness of mental health issues, with EFL charity partner MIND set to benefit from what was an amazing effort.
Bennett had set an initial target of £500, but that was smashed almost before he’d had chance to break sweat with just 90 minutes gone, with members of the first team squad and staff stepping forward to donate signed match day worn items to help with the money raising push.
Manager Chris Beech donated one of his iconic white ‘new signing’ training t-shirts, with captain Nick Anderton following suit with signed boots. Paul Farman, Callum Guy, Cedwyn Scott and George Tanner put forward further signed items, with the stream pulling in an average of around a constant 600 consecutive viewers as interest grew.
The club weighed in to help as director of football David Holdsworth offered the first 2021/22 ERREA home shirt to come off the production line as part of a raffle, and two tickets to the first home game of next season, with anybody who donated over £10 entered into both draws.
Bennett’s smooth hosting style kept many of his fellow streamers online for the full 12-hour shift, with others dipping in to join the chat, the quizzes and the games (albeit fewer than planned were played as time literally flew by).
And with the stream closing just after 10pm, a grand total of £3,625 was displayed at the top of the screen – with revised targets of £1,500, £2,000 and £3,000 having been set as the clock ticked on and the counter ticked over throughout the day.
Having agreed to a live phone call if the £1,500 target was reached (and it was) Chris Beech joined the popular defender late in the day.
“Well done to you, Rhys,” the gaffer said when he came on loudspeaker. “I’m very proud of what’s been done today, especially when you’ve instigated it from nothing.
“You deserve all the credit for making it happen. Like anything, without support it doesn’t mean anything, and it’s been superb to watch.
“It’s all been for a great cause and that makes it even better that you’ve done this. To raise that amount of money from 12-hours of effort is incredible.”
“I can’t find the words,” Bennett said when he closed the day out. “This club, what a family it is, the fans, the staff, everybody, what a place, it’s just amazing. I feel so emotional.
“I wanted to do a big speech but I’m lost for words. I am so proud to be a Blue. I was talking to someone the other day and they said that people will quickly forget what you tell them, but they’ll never forget the way you make them feel.
“That’s what this has all been about. So many people have come together to support this and I need to just say thank you to everyone. My team mates, wow, the club, I’ve already mentioned the fans, and there’s my streaming community. You’re all so important to me.
“I need to take this all in for now, and I’ll make a video to say thank you properly on Friday.”
“The main thing about today, of course, has been about raising awareness of mental health issues,” he added. “Please, just talk if you’re feeling low. Find somebody, anybody, and share your feelings.
“I know you think that people are busy but nobody wants to go to your funeral, they’d much rather speak to you and help if you’re feeling down. It’s so very important to reach out, don’t ever bottle things up.
“We’ve talked a lot today and we’ve raised an incredible amount, but the most important thing is that I hope we’ve helped to raise awareness. Mental health issues lead to suicide, and we have to try to do what we can to prevent that.
“Nobody should get to that point simply because they feel there’s nobody to talk to. Talk, please, there’s always someone there.
“This has been incredibly humbling for me – thank you so much from the bottom of my heart.”
Speaking on behalf of the club, David Holdsworth said: “From all of the directors I want to say a massive well done to Rhys.
“He has represented himself so magnificently with a very well thought out and superbly executed fundraising and awareness campaign that is aligned with such a serious issue.
“Rhys should be proud of himself, we’re certainly proud of him, and we can see from the reaction on social media that the fans are proud to have him as one of their own.
“With Rhys at the forefront this is a great example of how someone can bring people together, raise spirits and have a really positive impact on feelings of mental health and wellbeing.
“Thank you to everyone who supported Rhys but, of course, the biggest thank you goes to the man himself.”
The donation page remains open until this Friday. Follow this link to help Rhys raise even more money for MIND: https://streamlabs.com/rhysbeno91/tip
For advice on mental health issues, including helplines and important contact details, visit the MIND website here: https://www.mind.org.uk/