If you’re ever in Malawi, Uganda, Romania, Samoa, or dozens of other locations across the globe, don’t be surprised if you see a Reading kit. Working with the charity KitAid, the Reading badge has been travelling around the world spreading joy and warmth to impoverished children.

“If I go back a few years, we’ve worked with Reading now for quite a long time,” Derrick Williams from KitAid explained to The Reading Chronicle. “I can go back to when Nigel Adkins was manager. The kit goes everywhere. Reading are generous, they give us quite a lot and we share it out across our projects. But the heavy stuff, the winter coats, we keep separate for a project in eastern Romania and the kit will go out to teams there.”

Recently the latest batch of warm-weather Reading gear was taken to a school in Romania where the vast majority of children are left fighting the harsh winter with threadbare jackets. After helping those inside the school, the team noticed a young boy working outside with nothing of any substance to fend off the cold. 

“It’s all in this really rural part of eastern Romania where the temperatures get to like minus 20, it’s absolutely freezing,” Williams continued. “We work with a local charity, they’re called Myosotis Trust and they were delivering winter clothing we donated, they go around the schools because a lot of the school kids they’re wearing flimsy coats that aren’t really warm. So they take everything we give them like bobble hats, scarves, winter coats…while they were at that school they saw this boy pushing a wheelbarrow and they could see he was wearing just a flimsy jacket. So he ended up getting a Reading coat and he absolutely couldn’t believe it! 

Reading Chronicle: Wide smile: Reading coat providing warmth against the harsh Romanian winters. Image by: KitAidWide smile: Reading coat providing warmth against the harsh Romanian winters. Image by: KitAid

“They’ve gotten to know him now so they’re going to go back and make sure he’s got proper winter clothing, trousers, boots. That’s generally how KitAid works. We’re a small volunteer-run charity but we build links and that’s the important thing. And it does work.”

In addition, to the practical goal of helping these children fight the harsh winters, KitAid - with the help of clubs like Reading - aim to provide hope to disadvantaged communities through the power of football.

“Our saying is: It’s more than just a shirt, sharing a passion for football, sharing a passion for life. And I think that sums it up. It’s an enabler. The kits are used in so many different ways. They’re used in projects sometimes working in street gangs, getting kids together. It’s life-changing, it gives them hope.”

Reading’s links with KitAid run deeper than just the generous annual end of season donation, with one of the club’s own homegrown stars going out of his way to support the charity.

“Tom Holmes contacted us a couple of years ago. He said he gets given boots and that he was quite happy to let us have some of the boots he had. 

Reading Chronicle: Tom Holmes with his KitAid Thank You Certificate. Image by: KitAidTom Holmes with his KitAid Thank You Certificate. Image by: KitAid

“Then in summer 2020, during the season break he went around to all of his mates and he collected a whole load of kit for us. Very very humble guy, he wasn’t in the first team yet, I think he’d made one appearance. At this point, he was just training with the first team. He’s donated more kit since then. 

“What I like about Tom is that he’s a local lad and he’s taken it upon himself to find us. We’re not based in Reading, we’re in Hertfordshire, but he’s found, made contact with us, gone to the effort of going around and collecting kit from his mates. Just an all-around good guy. We don’t work with many players, it’s quite hard to get to players - you have to go through their agents, there’s all this bureaucracy. So I’ve got a lot of time for people like Tom.”