Arsenal takeover Welywn Garden City Willow store to raise money for Bob Wilson's charity
PUBLISHED: 16:31 17 May 2019 | UPDATED: 19:23 17 May 2019
Welwyn Garden City's Willow Foundation store was taken over by Arsenal today, all in aid of the charity set up by former Gunner, Bob Wilson.
Arsenal Foundation filled the store in Fretherne Road with club merchandise to support Willow, which organises special days for seriously ill young adults aged 16 to 40.
The charity was founded by former Gunners goalkeeper Wilson and his wife Megs, after their daughter Anna died of cancer aged 31.
Bob was delighted by the Arsenal takeover, telling the Welwyn Hatfield Times: "The fact that we do special days as a charity, this is a special day for me. It's a special day for everyone attached to the charity.
"It's extraordinary how much they've donated, they came up with the idea and brought everything down.
"I asked Will Stone, director of the Arsenal Foundation who is here with us today, how much there was here and he said it's £65,000 worth.
"For me, it's very moving - I'm very proud to be an ambassador for the Arsenal Foundation who are supporting not just in this way today, but we have an ongoing agreement with them where they give us £183,000 over three years.
"We give special days throughout all life-limiting illness - but they specifically are talking about degenerative illnesses, really horrible degenerative disease."
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Arsenal fans queued outside the store before its doors were opened by Bob, who signed books and shirts for customers on Friday.
Speaking about the special days that Willow provide, he added: "The uniqueness about Willow is the age group because we give special days for seriously ill young adults aged 16 to 40.
"That's all life-limiting, life-threatening illnesses - not just cancer."
"We are amazed that we've given more than 16,000 of these special days and they can either really complex or as simple as a visit to the training ground, meeting the players, getting things signed, or it can a theatre weekend in London.
"More and more people are learning about who we are, what we do and why we do it.
"As I get that bit older - with my 78th birthday coming up soon - I'm amazed that this charity we set up in memory of our daughter, specifically in Hertfordshire only, became a nationwide charity within five years and has now been doing what we've been doing for almost 20 years."
Bob also paid tribute to Willow employee Stephanie O'Connor, who lost her battle with cancer last week.
"We are dedicating today to the memory of our dear friend and colleague Stephanie O'Connor, who recently lost her life to cancer," said Bob.
"She loved this shop, her colleagues and her volunteers. She always held special days & Willow very dear in her heart, and we would like to recognise the massive contribution she made during her time with Willow."