Over the course of the 2023/24 season we will hear from a wide range of local people who have benefitted from Arsenal in the Community projects. Here we find out more about how Gary, 74 and a former Arsenal steward – seen above manning the the iconic Highbury gates on Avenell Road – has benefitted from our Strength & Balance sessions as he adapts to life with Parkinson’s Disease.
Name: Gary Jackson
Project: Strength & Balance
Weekly participants: 30
Sessions: Wednesdays and two sessions on Fridays
Available to: Over-55s in need of improving their strength & balance through low-level exercise
“I initially learned about the scheme through friends who are employed at Arsenal. I knew about Arsenal’s extensive involvement in various community projects as I have a strong personal connection with the club – I was a steward from 1993 to 2020, which allowed me to witness Arsenal’s commitment to numerous commendable initiatives, both locally in London and internationally.
“Living alone and dealing with Parkinson’s made me feel isolated due to the balance issues I was encountering, and I was genuinely enthusiastic about getting involved in the project. Even though I can no longer work as a steward, I still consider myself a valued member of the Arsenal family.
“It wasn’t daunting going to the stadium as I had worked there since it opened in 2006, so I was familiar with the venue, and when I arrived the entire staff were welcoming and supportive.
“The sessions were great and I have forged valuable friendships within the group, particularly with individuals facing similar challenges, and the exercises have significantly improved my balance and the muscle tone in my legs. I feel like being part of the project has provided me with the physical training I require to maintain my wellbeing and I have the ability to enhance my posture, leading to improved coordination. My increased leg muscle tone has improved my physical abilities, and I’m optimistic about making further progress.
“The Arsenal staff have been exceptional, consistently offering their support to accommodate my needs. Everything about the sessions has been well researched and executed to the highest standards. It doesn’t surprise me – it’s Arsenal!
“I’m overjoyed to be a part of Arsenal once again, a place where I hold numerous cherished memories. I would encourage anyone with the opportunity to participate in a project like this to seize it. It’s a chance to build new friendships and gain a fresh perspective on life.”
Health & Wellbeing Manager Rhys Ratcliffe says Gary has made huge progress and is a very positive participant in the sessions.
“Gary initially joined Arsenal in the Community to participate in our Parkinson’s Walking Football Project. Right from the start, he exuded warmth and a friendly, talkative nature. As a lifelong Arsenal fan and a local resident, he seamlessly blended into our community.
“However, after a few sessions, both Gary and I recognised that he could derive greater physical benefits from our Strength & Balance sessions. These sessions specifically emphasise fall prevention and improving stability, making them a more suitable fit for him. Since making the switch to these sessions, Gary’s progress has been nothing short of remarkable.
“His attendance has been exemplary, and it has been an absolute pleasure to have him in our class. Not only does he consistently contribute to the positive atmosphere, but he also enriches our sessions with his vibrant personality and captivating stories each week.”
Finally, given the date and his affiliation with the club, Gary has some thoughts on Remembrance Day.
“My father served in the REME – Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers – during World War Two, stationed in North Africa and Italy. It is crucial to remember those who served. Many families, like mine, lost loved ones in the two World Wars and various other conflicts. Remembrance Day holds a solemn place in my heart as we remember the sacrifices made by our armed forces, allowing us to continue to live in a free and peaceful country.”
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