A nine-year-old cancer survivor from Shenley had his dreams come true as he stepped onto the pitch at the Emirates Stadium as a mascot.
Arsenal FC fan Samuel Van Emden, who goes to Radlett Prepatory School, was given the opportunity to meet his footballing idols when he was selected as a Mascot for the Premier League side’s match against Olympique Lyonnais on Sunday, July 28.
Samuel has undergone four years of treatment for cancer at Great Ormond Street Hospital and Watford General Hospital.
In that time, the youngster and his family have received significant support from Camp Simcha, a charity for Jewish families with children who have life threatening or life changing conditions.
Samuel is the first child to be invited to be an Arsenal Football Club mascot through the Mayor of Hertsmere.
As part of Hertsmere Borough Council’s sports partnership with the club, the borough’s Mayor will be able to nominate a child to be a mascot once every year.
Samuel’s mother Charlie, speaking before the match, said: “My husband has always supported Arsenal and Samuel is a fan too, but we didn’t want to take him to games when he was in treatment, because being in crowds would have been dangerous for him. This is only the second time he will have been at the stadium. He is so excited.”
She added after the match that Samuel had the ‘time of his life’ and got to meet his favourite player, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.
Mayor of Hertsmere, councillor Rabbi Alan Plancey, who has selected Camp Simcha as his charity this year, said: “I’m just delighted that Samuel has had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent the team he loves.
“It also is thrilling to know that through Hertsmere Borough Council’s highly successful sports partnership with Arsenal, we will be able to offer this opportunity to other children in the future.
“Hertsmere has enjoyed a brilliant working relationship with Arsenal for many years now, in which we’ve been able to deliver a huge range of activities and programmes for young people in the borough.”
Neville Goldschneider, chief executive at Camp Simcha, said: “We were here for Samuel and his family when they faced years of gruelling treatment for cancer. Samuel and his sister Ella particularly enjoyed our art classes, outings and our family retreats which brought some much needed fun and family time to them all.
“We’re glad that with the help of our Honorary Patron Rabbi Plancey and Arsenal Football club, we could bring some more smiles to Samuel.”