During the club’s annual Stand Together Week, it’s a time for coaches and players to trade in their whistles or boots for a helping hand. The weeklong call for service across the Portland community asks for help in sorting food, tidying up green spaces or building furniture.
But some projects during the week call for just time, a short visit or a smile. Timbers assistant coach Liam Ridgewell led a group of players and staff on a visit to a local children’s hospital to spend some time with kids and their families.
“It was amazing,” said Ridgewell. “Obviously, it’s a difficult situation with families, seeing your kids not being well is always difficult. So going there is honestly a real pleasure. If it’s that couple of seconds – those 30 seconds – that you get to talk to them, to put a smile on their face, it’s all worth it.”
Ridgewell, a father himself, has developed a passion for these types of visits. It’s something he’s done for years as a player, and he jumped at the opportunity to participate in a hospital visit as part of Stand Together Week.
“I used to [visit children’s hospitals] a lot back in the Premier League over Christmas time; we’d go in with Christmas presents.
“It’s an amazing experience every time I go,” added Ridgewell. “You suddenly get a sense of reality in your life – we go day-in, day-out training, playing, and you can go through it – but you realize how lucky you are.”
These kids and families are navigating heartbreaking challenges, but visits like this provide an opportunity for a moment or two of joy. Even if it meant Ridgewell attempting to get Evander and Antony organized in sing-song for the kids.
“If we can put a smile on their face and give them presents or a shirt or just chat about computer games or TV that they’re watching, I hope it goes a long way,” said Ridgewell. “Hopefully we can continue this and I’ll be able to go back and do some book reading or chat with the kids and just spend more time with them.”
Often times during Stand Together Week, it’s the heavy lifting that can make the noticeable differences. But for some, the biggest impacts can come through a single conversation.
“The boys enjoy [Stand Together Week],” said Ridgewell, who has participated in Stand Together Week for several years as a player, broadcaster and now coach. “If you see any of the pictures ... me and [former Timbers defender] Alvas [Powell] used to go running around after chickens. I saw Noel [Caliskan] chasing after chickens. They meet people and get out into the community.
“We walked through the hospital and people saw us coming through and said hi. I think it’s such a big thing around the city that the organization has put on. Hopefully Stand Together Week can continue to bring everyone together.”