Parkhead is the perfect tonic as Donna recovers from cancer
By LOUISE THOMASON
A recent weekend trip to Glasgow turned into the experience of a lifetime for 20-year-old Donna Garrick.
As members of the Shetland branch of the Celtic Supporters’ Club, Donna and her parents, from Gott, had planned to go and watch Celtic play Hamilton, but didn’t realise that they would be watching from an executive box as VIP guests.
Suffering from cancer twice has left Donna with damage to her lungs and although now clear of the illness, her health is greatly impaired and she often needs the use of breathing apparatus to assist her.
Knowing she had been through a lot, friend of the family Ian Johnston organised a special surprise for Donna and her dad Alan, who was only too pleased to join her.
Mr Johnston runs JW Grays and as such has contacts with Celtic’s sponsors, Carling, and in particular Paul Miller, Carling’s UK sales director.
He said: “I’ve known [the family] for years through the supporters’ club and knew the situation with Donna; she’s not been well for a couple of years and I thought it would be good to do something.
“I knew they were going down with the Celtic Supporters’ Club. I have a couple of contacts at Celtic so had a word to see what could be arranged.”
Mr Johnston, also a Celtic fan, was there to enjoy the day as well. He said: “It was great to see them enjoy it as much as they did.”
Arriving in Glasgow on Friday, the family were in their hotel when Ian called to let them in on the surprise. Donna said she couldn’t believe it. “I burst out greetin’,” she said.
Mr Garrick was equally amazed. He said: “[Donna] kept saying, ‘I’m going to wake up shortly …’ ”
The excitement began when, on arriving at Celtic Park, they were shown to their executive box. As well as having brilliant views of the game, they were treated to a four course, champagne dinner and drinks by the club, who paid for everything.
But it didn’t end there. After the match, Donna and Alan were taken on a tour of the grounds by Carling’s sales director Mr Miller, which included seeing the board room and the trophy room and being taken on to the pitch itself, where they met a few of the players.
Manager Gordon Strachan also met them for a chat. Donna said he”was really friendly”.
To top off an already great day, the home team won 4-0. The fun wasn’t over however as on Saturday night they attended a club supporters dinner along with several players and ex-players, including midfielder Paul Hartley.
As a final surprise and treat, on Sunday night they were invited to attend a special dinner at Celtic Park in tribute to Japanese player Nakamura, where they enjoyed Japanese drums and food and the presence of yet more players.
Mr Garrick said they were particularly grateful to Neil Lennon, who asked Mr Johnston personally if Donna was there that evening and requested if she could join him and meet some of his team mates, including Nakamura.
Donna said it was brilliant and that “they were all really fine”.
Although she has been to see matches at Celtic Park before, Donna said that having supported Celtic “all my life” the day was out of this world. “I’ve been brought up supporting them, so it’s been a dream come true really,” she said.
Mr Garrick said: “It was a great day, a chance in a lifetime. Things like that don’t happen to everyone.
“We’d like to say a special thanks to Ian Johnston for organising the day and to the directors and staff at Celtic – especially Peter Lawwell, John Reid, Gordon Strachan, Paul Miller and Neil Lennon, for such an excellent day and something that you’ll remember for the rest of your life.
“It was really touching to think that people are thinking about her; she’s had a tough time of it and she deserved it.”