Huge turnout for memorial football matches to remember 'selfless' Charlotte Hope

Hundreds of people turned out for a charity football day in memory of a "selfless" 19-year-old.

Wing Commander Neil Hope and Helen Hope.
Wing Commander Neil Hope and Helen Hope.

On a scorching hot afternoon Market Drayton Football Club played host to a match with a difference – a memorial contest to raise money in the name of Charlotte Hope.

Charlotte, from Shawbury, was tragically killed in car crash on the A53 earlier this year.

The teenager had been training to become a teacher at the time, intent on fulfilling her ambition of going to work in Kenya, where she could also volunteer with charities supporting homeless children.

She had also previously volunteered with the League of Friends to Royal Shrewsbury Hospital during Covid, and had been a youth representative on Shropshire FA.

The football day featured two matches, one between a team of Charlotte's friends from Shawbury against friends she had made at Edge Hill University, and another with an RAF Shawbury team taking on an 'all stars' team, which included former Shrewsbury Town player Steve Biggins, and former AFC Telford manager Gavin Cowan.

The first contest was played in joyous spirit, with 'oohs', 'aaahs' and plenty of laughter as some of the teenager's friends who had never played a game got to grips with things while running under the beating sun.

Watching on were Charlotte's parents, Wing Commander Neil Hope, and his wife Helen, who is still recovering from the injuries she sustained in the crash that killed her daughter.

Money raised from the event will go to the Kenyan charity Restart, where Charlotte had previously volunteered.

A Just Giving page had already raised more than £20,000 as a legacy to Charlotte, with money raised at the football day to be added to the total.

Entry was free but people were asked to make donations, while an auction of a host of unique sporting memorabilia was expected to raise thousands after the matches.

Wg Cdr Hope, 57, who is based at RAF Shawbury, said they were thrilled to see so many people taking part in an event to remember their daughter, saying it had been a cathartic experience as the family still struggles to come to terms with their loss.

He said that the support and love shown for Charlotte had meant a huge amount to the family.

He said: "To start with it was just bad day, bad day, bad day. I started to get to the point where you have good and bad bits of each day. I think you get used to the 'new normal' but it's not close because your world has changed – and you expect to go before your children don't you, so it is always difficult."

He added: "I think today sums up what Charlotte was. When Charlotte was here you probably didn't realise the things she did, the volunteering, the community spirit, but not just that but how she was to her friends and what she meant to them.

"There are so many of them here, there is basically a pitch full. As soon as they knew we were doing this they wanted to do everything they could to help and take part."

Wg Cdr Hope thanked all those who had helped organise, put themselves forward to play, donated items, and supported with the event.

Some of Charlotte's friends, who had known her since primary school, said they could not wait to take part when they found out about the game.

Twin sisters Poppy and Lily Roberts, 20, from Shawbury, were two of those playing in the first match, having never played football before.

Poppy spoke of her friend's generosity – and how she would have laughed at the idea of her playing football.

She said: "She was just so generous. She did everything for everyone else rather than herself."

Callum Smith, 20 and also from Shawbury, added: "She was just such a selfless person."

Wing Commander Tommy O'Flaherty, who has served at RAF Shawbury on several occasions, and was part of the RAF team, said it was an honour to be invited to be part of the occasion.

He said: "We were just absolutely delighted to be asked to be involved in something that matters as much as this.

"You play football your whole career against various teams but to have the opportunity to come and raise money for such a worthy cause is a real honour."

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