Pictured (from left to right): Neil Appleyard (HUDSA), Jon Appleton (NEAS), Stephen Hobin (HUFC), Julia Newton (HUST) and Eric Wilson (HUSA)

Our ongoing campaign to make sure that everybody feels welcome at the Vic took another step forward on Tuesday as Chair of HUST, Julia Newton, was joined by representatives of the North East Autism Society, Hartlepool United Supporters’ Association, our Disabled Supporters’ Association, and the club, to launch a host of activities aimed at supporting Autism Acceptance Week and Month.

We’ve linked up with the North East Autism Society to ensure that our activities help to deliver the sort of support that meets the varied needs of as many autistic people as possible. Over the course of Autism Acceptance Week and beyond we’ll be publishing a series of articles including some personal experiences of autistic people attending Pools matches and introducing ‘sensory’ kits for young autistic supporters to help them attend games. The kits will be housed at the Corner Flag where autistic supporters who want them will receive the usual warm HUSA welcome. 

We’ll also be using our website to host a ‘social story’ for autistic people who might want to attend a Pools game but are feeling anxious about a new experience. Social stories help people know what to expect when they’re attending an event or venue for the first time and help them manage any anxieties they may have. They can be useful for all sorts of people so we’re hoping that the work we’re putting into this will be of long-term benefit to plenty of potential supporters in future.

Our new ‘Community Ticket Initiative’ will be paying for the sensory kits, and funding the highlight of our Autism Awareness Month activities, when young people and adults supported by the North East Autism Society will be invited to the Swindon Town match on 23 April as our guests.

One way we’re raising funds for the Community Ticket Initiative is with a ‘pay to play’ friendly match between HUST and Hartlepool’s own Cameron’s Brewery on Sunday 24 April at Seaton at 3pm. 

If you’d like to donate to this ongoing fund but don’t want to get muddy just click ‘Community Ticket Initiative’. 

Pictured (from left to right): Snowdrop The Hedgehog (NEAS), Neil Appleyard (HUDSA), Julia Newton (HUST) and Stephen Hobin (HUFC)

Launching the campaign, Julia said:,

“I’m very proud to be representing HUST and working alongside other organisations to make sure that everyone feels welcome at Pools.”

Her sentiments were echoed by NEAS CEO John Phillipson who said:

“For the past four years we’ve campaigned passionately to change the narrative around autism from one of deficits and ‘can’t dos’, instead focusing on celebration and understanding. We’ve done this by working closely with autistic individuals and their families from across the region and allowing their voices to be heard.

Along the way we’ve worked with some brilliant corporate partners, schools and individuals, and I am delighted that Hartlepool United Supporters Trust is joining us this year as we continue our journey to acceptance. They are working hard to make positive changes for their autistic supporters, and it’d be great if more community groups and organisations could follow suit.”

Stephen Hobin, Pools’ CEO also lined up on the pitch to show the club’s support and said:

“We’re really pleased to support Autism Acceptance Month and help to reduce any barriers which might prevent autistic people from supporting their local football club. We want to continue to make the Suit Direct stadium an inclusive place for all supporters.”