The parents of Daniel Wilkinson have thanked fundraising clubs and their fans across the EVO-STIK League for their support since the tragic death of their son last season after collapsing on the pitch during an Integro League Cup clash.
Barry and Gillian Wilkinson sent their thanks as the EVO-STIK League prepared to use the 2017-18 Integro League Cup competition to back the foundation set up in their son’s name since the tragedy during a preliminary round tie between Shaw Lane and Brighouse Town in September 2016.
Aged 24, the Ducks defender was was later found to have suffered from underlying heart condition Arrhythmogenic Right Ventricular Cardiomyopathy (ARVC) and his parents have been raising funds ever since to prevent needless deaths among young players through heart screening, the purchase of defibrillators and CPR training.
More than £35,000 has already been raised for The Daniel Wilkinson Foundation with more than £1,000 added to the total at the inaugural Daniel Wilkinson Memorial Trophy match between last season’s EVO-STIK League South champions and Brighouse Town at the latter’s Dual Seal Stadium on the eve of the new campaign.
EVO-STIK League secretary Angie Firth attended the memorial match along with a number of other officials and officers before announcing a new initiative on Thursday to support the Wilkinson’s mission over the course of the campaign with adverts and flyers for the foundation in the matchday programmes of all Integro League Cup ties.
With the early rounds kicking off within weeks, Firth told club officials: “Dan’s parents have set up The Daniel Wilkinson Foundation to raise awareness of sudden cardiac death in the young and to provide funding for more heart screening, defibrillators and CPR training. The league is very proud to support their efforts and your support as clubs in highlighting and promoting the foundation would be most appreciated.”
Barry Wilkinson hailed the support they’d been receiving from everyone around the league even before the new initiative to encourage all 68 clubs to promote raising awareness and funds was announced.
“Everyone from Shaw Lane to other clubs, the league itself and so many other people we have met since have been fantastic,” he said. “Apart from encouraging support for the foundation at events and games with bucket collections and things like that, people have been raising money themselves through their own efforts and so many have generously donated.
“There is only so much we can all do but we are very proud and grateful to everyone supporting us because even if we can only save one life and make a difference to one family we will have succeeded. We do not want to see any other parents losing a child needlessly and are looking forward to carrying on the foundation’s work with the great support we’ve had from the league and elsewhere in football.”
The Wilkinson family are also calling for the introduction of a nationwide screening programme after the success of one introduced in Italy during the late 1980s in cutting the number of players dying from undetected heart conditions by up to 90 per cent.
Dan’s Dad added: “The screening programme for young people playing organised sport that was brought in has made a huge impact in saving lives and is ultimately what everyone should be doing. It is something that we really want to see one day and we will keep campaigning for it.”
The passing of Daniel Wilkinson on September 12 2016 was marked by emotional scenes around the EVO-STIK League and beyond before his family and friends set out to start raising £50,000 in his memory to stop other young players dying.
A former Hull City youth team star, who also turned out for North Ferriby United, Scarborough Athletic, Harrogate Town, Goole Town and Rushall Olympic, Dan passed away after collapsing on the pitch just under an hour into his side’s cup clash and despite the best efforts of medics from both clubs and the emergency services to treat him using Town’s own stadium defibrillator and administering CPR.
The defender was later found to have the same disease that caused former Bolton star Fabrice Muamba to retire from football in 2012 after collapsing during an FA Cup tie at Spurs. That incident prompted the Football Association to team up with the British Heart Foundation to subsidise the cost of defibrillators for more than 900 clubs at Steps 1 to 5 following lobbying from a number of competitions including the EVO-STIK League.
The FA announced this week that the initiative is being relaunched following its previous success with more than half the clubs in the EVO-STIK League alone taking advantage of the subsidy to purchase the life-saving equipment.
Find out more about The Daniel Wilkinson via the charity’s social media channels and website: Twitter, @dannywilks5; Facebook, thedanielwilkinsonfoundation; Instagram, dwfoundation5; website, thedanielwilkinsonfoundation.org and via email at: contact@ thedanielwilkinsonfoundation.org. To donate, visit: http://mydonate.bt.com/charities/thedanielwilkinsonfoundation#.