Roman Abramovich sponsors youth charity
Sends kids to international matches
Children and carers attended Euro 2016
He’s spent billions of dollars fulfilling dreams of Chelsea fans across the world – now Roman Abramovich has helped fund a group of children’s trip of a lifetime to Euro 2016.
The Chelsea owner is the largest donor of the “Fulfilling Dreams” charity, which sends kids suffering with serious illness to football matches across the world.
A group of 55 children from Israel and their carers watched three matches at the finals in France this month courtesy of the charity, which is run by 23-year-old volunteer Gilad Salter.
“It was four years ago that I decided I really wanted to do something for the community,” Salter, who runs a small business which organizes trips abroad for young people, told CNN.
“Taking kids to the 2012 European Championship finals in Ukraine was brilliant but I wanted to do something bigger.
“I just didn’t have the funds, so I opened an organization and went to meet with donors to help finance the project.”
Salter’s charity, which is a non-profit organization and runs solely through the generosity of volunteers, has received acclaim from Israeli media for its work.
Abramovich became aware of it through Avram Grant, a former Chelsea and Israel coach.
“I couldn’t believe how generous he was,” Salter says of the Russian. “He sent us some money and said, ‘Thank you for doing something so special – it’s my honor to help you.”
“I think what appealed to Mr. Abramovich was the fact that this was a charity run by volunteers, with nobody benefiting financially.
“We had a meeting with all the kids going on the trip and we sent him an email with some photos. He’s really interested in what we’re doing and wants to help.”
According to Forbes, Abramovich is worth $7.9 billion and is the 151st richest person in the world. A Bloomberg report released in 2013 claimed that Abramovich donated $310 million to charity from 2010-2012.
The group, which visited Brazil two years ago, has also been sightseeing around Paris and visited Euro Disney.
Salter, a Manchester United fan, has been liaising with charities across Israel to find children who fit the criteria for a place on the program.
“We try to take different children on our trips to make sure everybody gets an opportunity,” he says.
“I think this year we’ve only got a couple who have been before – but sadly that’s because we’re worried they might not be around in another two years.”
Such statements bring home the reality of everyday life for some of the children involved.
Though Israel didn’t qualify as one of the 24 nations taking part, the kids were able to see the stars of world champion Germany play twice – including the last-16 victory over Slovakia.
They also witnessed the Republic of Ireland’s shock win over Euro 2012 runner-up Italy.
“Going to the Euros means the world to me,” Priel, a 15-year-old with cerebral palsy, told CNN. “I can’t really describe what an impact that this experience will have upon my life.”
A spokesman for Abramovich told CNN: “He is generous with a lot of worthy causes, many of which are focused on helping children.
“Fulfilling Dreams fits that profile, providing a wonderful service to some very special kids and helping them to live out their dreams of being able to travel to major football tournaments.”