Providing a child with football boots is a financial challenge for many families – but one man is tackling this problem in Feltham.
Mike Foston, 56, created the Feltham Boot Room in April.
The Boot Room project was founded by Carl Bradley in South Wales two years ago and Mike launched a Feltham branch after watching an interview with Carl on the Russell Howard show.
The project aims to tackle clothing poverty in sport, and helps remove financial barriers to participation in football.
The Boot Room collects donations of football boots and distributes them to young people in need.
Families simply place an order online for the boots they require and collect them free of charge with no questions asked.
Mike said: “The project is easy low-touch work and it has a really great result for those people who are really struggling.
“I have had kids skipping away from the front door with a pair of boots they didn’t think they were going to get.”
Last week, three parents who visited the Boot Room mentioned their child was worried about getting detention if they did not bring football boots to school.
Mike said: “I am delighted to be able to help and provide the boots they need, but it’s also a shame they feel under pressure to provide something that shouldn’t be a necessity, and involves a detention because their parents’ financial situation leaves them struggling.”
Mike runs the project from the spare room of his home in Feltham, with help from his wife, Sam.
The Feltham Boot Room was kickstarted with a crate load of boots from Bedfont Sports Football Club.
Since then, is has received 180 donations from members of the community and has already given out 150 pairs.
Mike works full-time as a data systems manager for the charity Cranstoun, which offers welfare support for the most vulnerable in society.
James Underhay, 39, is a volunteer at Staines Lammas Youth football club where his son, Max, plays.
Underhay recently turned to the Boot Room when two young boys arrived to training wearing trainers, which he explained is a safety issue, especially when it’s raining.
He sourced two pairs of boots and shin pads from the Boot Room.
Underhay said: “I think it’s an amazing initiative and Mike should be getting more praise for what he is doing because this isn’t something for financial gain.
“These two little boys will be really, really happy.
“The impact it will have on the children I hope will be really positive, they will feel like the bees knees when they next come to training with their new boots.”
Mike would love to see more Boot Rooms established in other areas of South West London.
The initiative has already been rolled out across several locations in Wales and England including Plymouth, Warminister, Ipswich, Liverpool and Cheltenham.
The Feltham Boot Room is asking for donations of clean football boots, particularly larger sizes.
They also accept shin pads and goalkeeper gloves.
There are currently six collection points around Feltham where boots can be donated.
To arrange a collection or drop off visit the website: Feltham Community Boot Room.