'Suchanite' Aston Villa shirt to be auctioned for Acorns Hospice
An Aston Villa shirt is set to be raffled off or auctioned in a bid raise money for Acorns Hospice in Walsall.
Graham Payne, from Pelsall, is set to give the 2007 football shirt to a group of families involved with the hospice in a bid to help save it from closure.
The 71-year-old said: "It's going to be raffled off by the group in an appeal to stop the closure of Acorns in Walsall.
"I've raised several thousands of pounds for Acorns over the years and I thought, when it was announced it was closing, I thought I could do something and the shirt was just a thought.
"Even if it raises a few hundred I will be happy."
Acorns Hospice announced it could close earlier this month as a result of rising running costs and a drop in donations.
The charity will stop providing care at its hospice in Walsall from the end of September if the proposal goes ahead.
Graham said he was "very saddened" by the news.
He said: "I was very saddened by the news. It's been there for quite a few years now and it's served Walsall and beyond well over the years.
"It will mean people have got to travel to Birmingham and these are families that are in a situation and it's making it worse.
"I've raised money for a lot of different charities and Acorns was one of those who I've assisted."
The shirt also has an Express & Star letter from August 16, 2007, printed on the back of shirt after Aston Villa FC chose to make Acorns Children's Hospice the club's main sponsor.
It reads: "Well done Aston Villa FC for their sponsorship of Acorns Children's Hospice and waving any fee – setting an example to other money hungry Premiership clubs.
"What makes it more gratifying is that Acorns did not make the approach, the club contacted them.
"I'm sure this reduced staff to tears."
The name on the back of the shirt – G. Suchanite – refers to the Elvis Presley and Johnnie Ray song Such a Night which he used to perform "everywhere he went".
Graham, who was an entertainer, used to sing the song during each performance he did across the West Midlands.
The claret and blue fan added: "When Aston Villa contacted the charity I was so pleased and wrote to the Express & Star.
"The article was put in and then I had it screen-printed onto the shirt.
"I'm going to leave it to the group to decide whether it's auctioned or raffled.
Up in the air
Bereaved parent Mark Lyttle, whose daughter Isabella received care at Acorns, said people were doing "everything" they can to save the branch.
"We want to raise money to save Acorns Hospice in Walsall – it's completely up in the air over whether it will be saved or not," he said.
"It's very difficult.
"The money will be used for Acorns and we're doing as much as we can for them.
"We're raising awareness and set an example for the whole of Walsall.
"It's a really difficult situation they've found themselves in."
Mark said the shirt would be auctioned or raffled off sometime next month – although no date has been set.
He said: "It will go in a raffle or possibly an auction, or whatever to raise money.
"I know it's a very treasured possession – I was like 'do you really want to give it over'?
"It was very special to him and he realises that it can help – he is fully on-board as are a lot of people."
Fundraising events will be posted on Isabella's Neuroblastoma Journey on Facebook, which also allows people to read Isabella Lyttle's story.
To donate, visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/isabella-loves-acorns
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