A BRAVE youngster battling leukaemia was treated to a penalty shoot-out alongside his footballing idols.
Ten-year-old Charlie Foster was thrilled as his three favourite Hartlepool United players – goalkeeper Scott Flinders, defender Sam Collins and forward Luke James – stayed behind after training in Durham on Tuesday for a kick-about and a penalty competition.
It is two years ago this month since the Hartlepool youngster was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia and during that time the brave youngster has juggled treatment with keeping up with school work and playing football for his school team and Seaton.
As well as that, in April last year he took part in the Sir Ian Botham Walk in Newcastle with his dad Colin to raise money for Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research.
The youngster is now in remission but still has another year of treatment left and has daily doses of chemotherapy at home plus monthly visits to the Royal Victoria Infirmary, in Newcastle, alongside steroid treatment.
To help boost his spirits, club officials organised the training ground treat.
Dad Colin, 43, who writes for the club’s programme, said: “The club has been really supportive and kept in touch with his progress and organised for him to go to training.
“The players stayed behind afterwards and had a kick-about and a penalty shoot-out with Charlie, which he loved.
“It has really helped raise his spirits and he hasn’t stopped smiling since.”
Club officials say Charlie has been up to the training ground before to meet the players so when they found out it was two years since his diagnosis they invited him up there again during the school holidays.
In an extra special surprise for the football-mad youngster, Sam Collins presented him with a signed pair of his match-worn boots.
Sam Collins said: “It’s lovely to see him looking so well and with a smile on his face.
“We were delighted to see him up at training again and I have to say he not only takes a mean penalty but is also pretty good at keeping them out when he went in goal.”
As previously reported, Charlie last year missed more than 20 per cent of school time due to hours upon hours of gruelling chemotherapy and treatment at the RVI but remarkably was still the top maths performer in his year group at Throston Primary School.
Charlie is now in remission after the treatment managed to rid his body of more than 95 per cent of the cancer, but he still needs daily, weekly and monthly chemotherapy at home.
Further tests will be carried out in April next year but his parents say he is managing the treatment well.
Charlie lives at home in the Hart Lane area of town with mum Alison, 40, an assistant project officer for employment for Hartlepool Borough Council, dad Colin, an operations manager and big sister Katie, 13.
It was back in February 2011 when Charlie’s parents first realised something was wrong and he still hadn’t got over a cold he had picked up at Christmas time and was notably pale.