Anniversary football match for former Doncaster-based player

Neil Gardiner at the rear of the cockpit with the Red Arrows
Neil Gardiner at the rear of the cockpit with the Red Arrows

A tenth anniversary football match in memory of a Doncaster-based player, who gave his name to a Sheffield hospital ward, takes place on November 11.

Neil Gardiner died ten years ago on November 11, 2007, aged 26, after a three-and-a-half year battle with leukeamia.

As a youngster Neil was a very keen and talented footballer. He played for Sprotbrough Crusaders and when he joined the RAF, he joined their football team. Since his death, both teams take part in a memorial match at Doncaster Deaf School, usually on or around the anniversary of his death. Any money raised now goes to Leukeamia Research.

Neil was admitted to the hematology department at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital in Sheffield after his diagnosis at 22. A few months later another young patient came onto his ward. Samantha Shepherd, who had the same illness. They became friends and supported each other throughout.

At the time there was nowhere for young adults to spend their time during their long spells in hospital. They were on a mixed ward with lots of older patients. They decided to try and raise money for a separate place for young people and started fundraising with many events taking place.

A new unit on ward P3 at the hospital, specifically for teenagers and young adults with a day room that was more suitable, was opened in June 2012. It was named in recognition of the efforts of Neil and Samantha.

Neil’s sister, Lynn Fisher, said: “It is great that Neil and Samantha were able to achieve this and I have attached the plaque that is on the wall. They both did not live to see the opening of this amazing unit, which is now funded via the Sheffield Hospitals Charitable Trust.”