HEARTS have welcomed more than 300 carers, youngsters and charity workers as they celebrated two years of success at an annual family fun day.
Big Hearts, the official charity of the club, invited guests to its third kinship family day at Tynecastle yesterday - the biggest event of its kind in Scotland.
The Gorgie club opened its doors to host the event which included allowing 140 children to take part in activities such as music tuition, crafts and stadium tours - while charities and local organisations offered advice to carers on options available.
Families were also able to meet players from the Hearts first team and manager Craig Levein.
Yesterday’s celebration was held to mark two years of the charity’s kinship programme, which is run with Mentor Scotland. The project uses football to raise awareness on kinship care.
Craig Wilson, interim general manager of Big Hearts, said: “It has been fantastic to see so many kinship care families having such a great tome at Tynecastle whilst getting to know more about the support available to kinship carers across the community.
“For our third kinship family open day, we are delighted to see some progress in reducing the stigma associated with kinship care, as some of the kinship care families - who have been supported by Big Hearts and Mentor Scotland for the past two years, are now feeling confident enough to share their experience with other families.
“Thanks to our link with Heart of Midlothian, we welcomed new and previously hidden kinship families today and we believe this is a fantastic example of a football club using its reach into the community and its facilities to help those most in need.”
Hearts chairman Ann Budge also supported the event and paid tribute to the charity for its work.
She said: “Big Hearts’ kinship care programme is a truly wonderful initiative and I am very proud to support it.
“Last year’s kinship family open day was the largest gathering of kinship carers in Scotland. This event is a day of celebration for kinship care families and Big Hearts deserves a huge amount of credit for running such a successful programme with their partner Mentor Scotland.”
Since October 2015, the charity has developed a range of support for kinship children and their carers. Around 500 free tickets for Hearts games are given to families while more than 120 youngsters take part in after-school club sessions at Tynecastle.
Edinburgh’s Lord Provost, Frank Ross, said: “The Big Hearts programme provides us with invaluable additional support, by offering children and their carers with free access to fantastic days out and after-school club sports and activities. In many cases, the programme makes a difference by simply offering carers a friendly space to chat freely about the challenges they face together.
“I have no doubt the combined efforts of Big Hearts and the many other charities and organisations which support the project are making a difference to countless lives in Edinburgh.”