Saints’ first-team players and staff visited Southampton General Hospital on Wednesday afternoon to spread some joy to patients young and old.
Manager Ralph Hasenhüttl and his squad chatted to children and handed out an array of gifts including Saints toys, scarves and mugs, and signed player cards with personalised messages for the patients.
The team also spent time in the elderly care wards, putting smiles on faces and listening to lifelong supporters recall their favourite Saints memories from years gone by.
The visit, organised by Saints Foundation, ensured the whole squad was able to lift the spirits of hundreds of patients across several wards.
Defender Ryan Bertrand said: “To interact with the community in Southampton and for them to feel our presence at times is a beautiful thing.
“Whatever their problems, if we can enable their faces to light up for just that one moment in the day, hopefully it can make it all the better.
“Sometimes we can be so caught up in our own situations, but when you come here you can really put things in perspective.”
Claire Pickett, healthcare play specialist at Southampton General, added: “Some of the children have been so poorly and some have been in for quite a long time, so it’s just another way of boosting their spirits and giving them something to smile about.
“They all found out this morning that the players were coming, so they’ve all been looking forward to meeting their heroes. There are quite a few Saints fans, so to see them at the end of their beds is just magical for them.
“It’s perfect for the staff too – it boosts our morale. They’re long days, running around making sick children better, so it’s nice. Thank you!”
It was a particularly special day for nine-year-old Saints fanatic Leon Mooney, whose favourite player James Ward-Prowse stopped by to spend time at his bedside.
Young Leon was diagnosed with lymphoma last month and is currently undergoing chemotherapy, so he wrote a letter to Ward-Prowse in the hope the England international would pay him a visit.
Upon reading the letter, the Saints star decided to bring along a signed shirt and pair of boots to give to Leon, whose hospital ward is adorned with Saints memorabilia.
Leon said: “I was surprised and gobsmacked. We talked about me and my family, and he signed some stuff for me.”
Ward-Prowse explained: “The club is a family club that’s all about unity and togetherness and Leon is a big Saints fan, so I think he appreciated the time we spent to come and see him.
“He’s going through a tough time and it’s not nice to see, but we can use the power of the club and the team to put a smile on his face. Hopefully we’ve allowed him to see more positively through his recovery now.”
Leon’s mum Sam summed up the value of the gesture: “He (Leon) has been in isolation the last few days, but he got told this morning he was out of isolation, so it’s just brought his spirits up.
“It’s made a tough time much happier and I have a boy that has a massive smile, so I couldn’t ask for more.”