WellChild family make history as ‘virtual’ Everton football mascot
Posted on the 23rd April 2018
A unique partnership between WellChild, Everton Football Club and a Norwegian start-up, No Isolation made technological and sporting history in the Premier League match against Newcastle United tonight by helping a young fan too sick to travel from home to become the world’s first ‘virtual matchday mascot’ – experiencing the excitement of going onto the pitch via a specially-designed robot carried by Everton Team Captain, Phil Jagielka.
The telepresence robot, called AV1, was designed by No Isolation to help combat loneliness in children and young adults with long-term illnesses, by allowing them to attend school and social occasions through the device’s connection to a smartphone or tablet, allowing them to see, hear and communicate with others.
This will be the first time a child has been able to perform matchday mascot duties ‘remotely’, with the AV1’s integrated camera, microphone, and speaker enabling the experience of going onto the pitch.
The young fan, Jack, is a 14-year-old boy from Liverpool and a lifelong ‘Toffee’. He suffers from multiple health conditions and his oxygen-dependence – and use of a wheelchair – severely restricts his mobility.
However, Jack was able to enjoy the once-in-a-lifetime mascot experience through the AV1 robot; meeting various Everton players in the changing room and tunnel before being carried onto the pitch in front of a crowd of more than 39,000 by the Everton Team Captain. The AV1 was connected to Jack’s iPad at home – allowing him to see and hear the experience in real-time through the telepresence robot avatar, while comfortable in bed.
Jack’s family have received support from WellChild Nurse, Esther and are active members of the WellChild Family Tree. Jack’s mother, Michelle, is also a WellChild Parent Ambassador.
We know that feelings of isolation are a common issue for many children and families in this situation. It’s one of the issues we care passionately about. It’s great to work with organisations like No Isolation to explore innovative ways of tackling this growing problem.
Colin Dyer, WellChild CEO
WellChild’s Chief Executive, Colin Dyer, said: “It’s fantastic to be involved with No Isolation and Everton Football Club in this amazing project featuring AV1 for Monday’s game at Goodison Park. We think the little robot could be a massive boon for children and young people like Jack with complex needs, whose conditions mean that they cannot be everywhere they want to be in person. There is a growing population of families who are caring for a seriously ill child at home. We know that feelings of isolation are a common issue for many children and families in this situation. It’s one of the issues we care passionately about, and something we work hard to tackle through programmes such as the WellChild Family Tree support network which links families across the UK. It’s great to work with organisations like No Isolation to explore innovative ways of tackling this growing problem.”
Karen Dolva, CEO and Co-Founder of No Isolation, comments: “Technology is about making the seemingly impossible possible. For Jack, the dream of being a mascot for his favourite football club was not likely to happen given his condition. The AV1 is designed to involve children who, because of illness, feel marginalised and out of the loop from their friends. Working with such a wonderful and inclusive club as Everton to give Jack this once in a lifetime opportunity is a moment myself and those working at our company will never forget.”
Scott McLeod, Head of Engagement at Everton Football Club, comments: “The most important thing for everybody at the Club is that we have had the opportunity, through this amazing technology and the work with No Isolation and WellChild, to do something incredible for an inspirational young Evertonian. We are thrilled to have had the chance to do this for Jack and we hope it has provided him with a memory he will always treasure.”
Jack’s mother, Michelle, comments: “Having the support from the amazing team at WellChild from Esther our dedicated WellChild Nurse, to the WellChild Family Tree means we’re never alone, isolated or without support. We are thrilled that through No Isolation and Everton Football Club, Jack is able to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience.”
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