Jed Wallace has expressed his excitement at the prospect of being led out onto the pitch at The Den by young Millwall supporter Ellice Barr, as The Lions take on Brighton & Hove Albion in Sunday's Emirates FA Cup Quarter-Final tie.
Wallace met seven-year-old Ellice last season, with the Lions man becoming aware of the youngster and her family's support for the club - and notably her favourite player.
Ellice suffers with diplegia cerebral palsy, which has affected her mobility since birth. Her story has touched the hearts of Millwall fans and supporters of other clubs worldwide, with her family's early fundraising efforts raising money for surgery to increase her mobility.
Further fundraising, started by Millwall Supporters' Club, is now underway to raise the required amount for an evenly laid garden for Ellice to be able to play with her brother and sister this summer, a campaign her idol Wallace - along with the club - is wholeheartedly supporting.
“It’s great to have been part of Ellice's journey so far along with her family and to see how well she’s doing, along with the Millwall fanbase and the lads in the dressing room,” he said.
“It’s very rewarding, and sometimes the things in football you don’t see. The work that Nena [Gibson] has done and continues to do at the football club with people like Ellice is amazing.”
Wallace explained how he first got to know Ellice and her family, and praised the ability of the football world to unite in support of those in need.
“I first saw Ellice’s story on Twitter.
“With young kids of my own, I find it hard to understand when people are in situations that they’re just born into. I got really close to her and her family, and still speak to them on a regular basis with updates on how she’s doing.
“They deserve all the luck they can get, and you’ve seen with the power of people what can be done. The Millwall fanbase, as well as fans of West Ham and other clubs have been donating, which is an amazing side of football. I look forward to seeing her on Sunday, and hopefully walking out onto the pitch with her.”
Ellice, along with 10-year-old fellow avid Lions fan Harvey Brown - both well-known and endeared to by the Millwall family - were among our Community Day mascots in our last home match with Norwich City, and Wallace is grateful for the platform as a footballer to be able to give back to the community.
“They are an inspiration to us all, of course. Football’s a massive thing for all of us, and it has given me an opportunity to have an impact on people.
“Like a lot of the lads in the dressing room, I think I’m just a normal person. For some reason, the public put us on a pedestal and it’s great to be able to use that in a positive way to get to know people like Ellice – whether that be financially, raising awareness or whatever it may be.
“The same as with Harvey – I know that Aiden [O’Brien] and a few of the lads have been really involved with helping him, and that’s what this football club is all about – the community, a family and being there for Ellice, Harvey and hopefully more kids in the future.”
Wallace finally went on to laud the tireless work of Millwall in the community, and reiterated his delight at his opportunities to help those less fortunate.
“It’s brilliant what Millwall do for the community. For one reason or another, this club can get a negative spotlight on it, but credit has to go to a lot of the things that especially Nena and the club do in the community.
“I’ve been at Portsmouth and Wolves, and this club do just as much – if not more – than those clubs do and don’t get the recognition they deserve. I would certainly say to Nena and the rest of the guys who organise events such as our hospital visits and seeing kids in the community that what’s being done is amazing.
“When I grew up wanting to be a footballer, I didn’t realise how special it is to be able to give back to the community and do these sorts of things – and long may it continue.”
You can donate to Ellice's fundraising page to help her reach her lifelong goal of enjoying a healthy and active lifestyle here.