Pretty much everyone loves Virgil van Dijk. You’d be hard pressed to find a supporter or a pundit or a teammate who doesn’t like him. His addition to the squad has been hailed as a “transformer” (in this amazing piece by Melissa Reddy) and is a large part of Liverpool’s success this season. That stuff everyone knows.
So of course, it would follow that our Big Virg is a good guy off the pitch. And don’t worry, you’d be right.
The Echo revealed recently that Van Dijk and his wife Rike have been working closely with the Owen McVeigh Foundation in the past few months in an effort to help give back to their new community. If you’re unfamiliar, the Owen McVeigh Foundation was started by Mark and Joanne McVeigh in memory of their son Owen, who passed away in 2015 of leukemia at the age of 11. The foundation now provides support to other families of children dealing with their own cancer battles and aims to enrich the children’s lives in ways they might not otherwise be able to.
Naturally, a person like Van Dijk throwing his support behind them is a boon for the foundation and he’s already made quite a difference. Most recently he donated his personal hospitality box at Anfield to the foundation for the match against Crystal Palace, but that pales alongside his Christmas present to 120 children.
“Virgil got in contact to say that he had heard about our work and wanted to help some local families. It was great to hear from him and it meant a lot,” Mark McVeigh told the Echo.
“We got talking about our annual Christmas party which we usually put on for around 50 kids in the Shankly Hotel and then take them to the pantomime. Virgil asked if he could get involved and suggested that he could help us do it on a much bigger scale.
“Thanks to him we ended up having a party for 120 kids who have had to deal with cancer, the vast majority of them having been treated at Alder Hey.
“They got presents from Father Christmas and then a trip to the pantomime, including meeting the cast. Virgil paid for everything. He’s a top man. He didn’t want any media there, he just wanted to help.
“Virgil and his wife Rike were really involved in all the planning right down to exactly what we were putting in all the gift bags for the kids.”
While Liverpool players are no strangers to elaborate Christmas parties for child supporters, it’s always a good thing to see a new player working to become more involved in their adopted communities. Mark McVeigh also spoke to some of the plans involving Van Dijk and another charitable player in the future.
“He really empathises with what we’re trying to do in Owen’s memory,” Mark continued.
“His backing is great news for the Foundation and he’s got some brilliant ideas. Last weekend he gave us his box at Anfield for the children to enjoy the game in comfort. They absolutely loved it.
“We’re overwhelmed by what he’s done for us. He’s a hero to so many and such a big character.
“He’s been inspiring Liverpool on the pitch this season and this just shows he’s a class act off the pitch as well. He just wants to help put smiles on the faces of kids who have been going through a tough time.”
Last year the Foundation achieved a huge fundraising goal by raising £110,000 to expand their efforts to the Lake District by purchasing a lodge to act as an escape for families and kids going through the fight that is beating cancer. The lodge will officially open on February 7th, and the running costs are covered by none other than the James Milner Foundation in partnership.
“It’s great to have it finally finished and we’re pretty much booked up for the next six months already,” Mark said.
“The link with the club is strong and we really appreciate all their support. It’s lovely for us as a family to have players like James and Virgil on board.”
In case you needed a reminder, but our team is full of very good lads and we’re lucky that they’re kind, generous, and talented - an increasingly rare combination these days, it can seem.