Derby County Football Club is launching a nationwide autism awareness campaign at a Championship match against Bristol City at Pride Park on 29 March.

The club will celebrate taking on the Anderson Foundation Challenge with a series of fun activities on match day, culminating in a pitch parade involving around 100 people from local disability sports groups, school children and members of the National Autistic Society (NAS).

nas2Earlier in the day, the Derby County Community Trust Disability Programme will host a football festival for local fans of all ages and abilities, featuring a tournament and an inflatable penalty shoot-out. There will also be a special appearance from Rammie, the Derby County Football Club mascot.

The Anderson Foundation Challenge is a partnership between the NAS and the Anderson Foundation, which aims to increase knowledge of autism, a lifelong disabling condition which affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people.

Coaches will challenge players to do something amazing for autism by completing character-building tasks to raise sponsorship money to support the NAS. The funds raised will help the charity continue to provide much-needed services and support for the hundreds of thousands of people living with autism across theUK.

NAS Ambassador Ben Kenyon, who will be attending the game, said: “I’m really excited to travel to Pride Park to support the launch of the Anderson Foundation Challenge.

“As a big sports fan, I think it’s really important to involve people with autism in sport. The challenge is a simple and fun way for coaches and players to learn about the difficulties experienced by people with the condition and will hopefully encourage clubs to make reasonable adjustments to allow more people with autism to participate in sport.”

Sam Turner, Disability Development Officer at Derby County Community Trust, said: “We’re really proud to be supporting the Anderson Foundation Challenge. The tasks will engage local children and young people with the issues facing many people with autism and hopefully support the NAS in their fundraising.

“I hope that other clubs will be inspired to get involved in the campaign, supporting people with autism and other disabilities to get involved in sport across the country.”

Adam Legzdins, Derby County goalkeeper said: “After spending an afternoon working with the Derby County Community Trust Disability Programme last week, I have seen the many benefits their programme offers to local people in Derbyshire and the positive impact just a few sessions can have on their lives.

“Here atPridePark, we’re launching the Anderson Foundation Challenge, with the NAS, to raise awareness of autism amongst children and coaches across various sports. I hope as many local children and young people as possible will sign up and get involved in a challenge.”

Mark Anderson, Chairman of the Anderson Foundation, said: “I am delighted and so appreciative of the support that Derby County has offered us with the launch of the challenge at their Championship home match on 29 March.

“I know that Sam Turner from Derby County Community Trust and Derby County FC goalkeeper Adam Legzdins have worked very hard to get the campaign off to a flying start and I would like to extend my sincere thanks to them and all those involved for their efforts.”

Find out more about the Anderson Foundation Challenge and sign up here: www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/raise-money/organise-a-fundraising-event/anderson-schools-challenge/anderson-foundation-challenge-for-clubs.

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