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Like many children his age, Ben Dickinson dreams of being a professional footballer. While waiting to stand out with crampons on his feet, the 11-year-old Northern Irishman did it with his sneakers by covering 102 kilometers in the space of ten days to Old Trafford, where he arrived on Saturday. An initiative which, coupled with an auction and an online kitty, enabled him to finance more than 115,000 meals. And to follow in the footsteps of his idol Marcus Rashford.

Marcus Rashford is emulated. In 2020, in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Manchester United striker had burst the screen, far beyond the world of football, by fighting to feed underprivileged children. A commitment in particular carried via the association FareShare, of which he has been the ambassador for two years. Ben Dickinson does not (yet) have this status, but the boy has also brought his stone to the building. And we are not talking about a pebble, but about a hell of a rock: walking more than 100 kilometers from Larne to Old Trafford, this young fan of Red Devils managed to fund over 115,000 meals. Little but strong.

“If Rashford told him to swim to Manchester, he probably would”

Passionate about football and a lover of United, like his father, young Ben got it into his head to help the poorest children when he saw Marcus Rashford leading the way. And the Northern Irishman is not at his first attempt. “During confinement, when the resumption of football was announced, he wanted to prepare to be in good shape. At the same time, he heard about Marcus Rashford’s initiative, so he wanted to contribute. Marcus brought the subject to light and since he’s his idol, Ben wanted to do something similar.rewinds his father Andrew. He started a fundraiser and ran a mile a day for 26 days, the equivalent of a marathon. If Marcus Rashford told him to swim to Manchester, he probably would. » Result: more than 8000 euros collected in favor of the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice, an establishment which takes care of seriously ill children in North Belfast.

“Sky Sports heard about it and arranged an interview, during which Marcus Rashford was surprised to appearcontinues the father. He told him he was proud of himself and to continue what he was doing, so Ben wished to walk to Old Trafford to raise money. » An adventure in which the boy took his parents on board: “We took Ben to the FareShare warehouse, they explained to us what they were doing. Last year, they distributed 2.5 million meals a week. This gives more perspectives on their action and on the extent of the needs. By taking an interest in this, Ben made us more aware. He wanted to learn, so his mother and I learned with him. » The whole little family has also made the trip to Old Trafford, including his six-month-old brother. The dad had to take two weeks off, and the son missed a few days of school, but the challenge was worth it.

From Giggs to Ferguson to Rooney

The clan began their journey on March 3 at Inver Park, home of Larne FC. At his side, the owner of the club and several players from the first team. “Jane Gregg, the daughter of goalkeeper Harry Gregg, one of the survivors of the Munich crash, also came a long way with us” , points out Andrew Dickinson. The list of personalities encountered during the epic is as long as your arm: along the way, the young boy exchanged a few balls at Goodison Park with the former Toffee Graham Stuart and crossed Paul Scholes, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney, Gary Neville or Jesse Lingard. Before the apotheosis on Saturday: “We were welcomed by Sir Alex Ferguson at Old Trafford and we were in his private suite. Ben had stars in his eyes, it was probably the highlight of our adventure. I thanked my son because thanks to him, we met the greatest manager of all time! »

The budding activist was even invited to the lawn just before the match against Tottenham, the opportunity to receive a well-deserved ovation. A day described by the boy as the best day of his life. “He’s an 11 year old, I don’t think he realizes how huge his impact will besays his father. Initially, he wanted to reach 50,000 meals. Eventually it managed to exceed the equivalent of Wembley’s capacity. He is a very sensitive child, he has a big heart. When I think of the number of people he will help, I am very moved. His mother and I are very proud of him. Saturday, once our walk was over, we thought we were going to take a break for a few weeks, before seeing what we could do to raise more money. Ben wants to continue raising funds for associations. » Manchester had room for two heroes on Saturday night: Cristiano Ronaldo and Ben Dickinson.

By Quentin Ballue
Words by Andrew Dickinson, collected by QB.

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