DOZENS of people walked through the city today to raise vital funds marking 135 years of Southampton FC and 20 years of the Saints Foundation.

The We March Together walk took place on Saturday led by 14-year-old Ellie Wheatley, a confident football player from King's Worth who is autistic and deaf.

The event started at the Common and participants walked a 5km distance through the city, marshalled by Saints foundation staff and volunteers which followed the route of the clubs history over the past 20 years.

Joining Ellie was James Beattie, a former Saints football star, and Greg Baker, head of the Saints Foundation.

Speaking to our reporter at the stadium, Ellie said: "I'm part of the SaintsAbility Project which works with people with disabilities that are under 18.  "Today we were doing a 5k walk raising money to transform the lives of people in and around Southampton.

"My role was to wave the flag and lead everything.

"I've had an amazing time, I'm so lucky I get to do this.  "This is the longest walk I have ever done." 

Now 14, Ellie has grown into a happy, confident football player with the support of Southampton FC charity, Saints Foundation.

SaintsAbility, a programme run by the charity provides regular football and life skills sessions for disabled young people and adults in the city.

The sessions are said to give them the opportunity to socialise and be more confident and have now helped Ellie overcome challenges with her hearing and balance to become a skilled footballer.

Ellie said that in the future she hopes to become a sports journalist in the city.

Proud Mum Christine Wheatley said: “Ellie’s entire life has been transformed by The Saint’s Foundation. 

"She’s gone from being a shy child to a happy, charismatic football-mad teenager."

In the past two decades, the foundation has helped thousands become more involved, healthier and empowered.

In the 2021/22 season, the charity is celebrating this milestone by looking back at 20 years of work, highlighting the stories of many people like Ellie who have transformed their lives with its support.

Greg Baker said: "Today wan an event to celebrate our 20 year anniversary and effectively it was to bring together a number of people who are fundraisers for us but also supporters of us and a number of participants to do a 5k walk around the city which took in a lot of the venues that are really important to the club.

"It was a really great hopefully visual statement about bringing people together and the positivity around the Saints Foundation and also around fundraising for our work and to ensure the work we do, which is having a real value in the community, is able to continue."