A YOUTH project in Mirfield is to be extended in the wake of the tragic death of a local footballer.
Funding has been secured for a new development worker for the town’s Matrix drop-in centre.
It aims to strengthen and develop the youth venture based at St Paul’s Church in the town each Wednesday evening.
Hard-working Ross Wood died in November, 2007, after being hit in the face in a motiveless attack following a night out celebrating a friend’s birthday.
He banged his head on a shop window and the pavement as he collapsed from the force of the punch. He was taken to Dewsbury District Hospital, and transferred to a specialist neurological unit at Leeds General Infirmary, but died two days later.
The 22-year-old plumber – known as Woody to his friends – played football for Horbury Town and was captain of Mirfield Town. His death left both teams devastated.
It also left a huge void in the lives of Ross’s parents, Steve and Sam, and sisters Leanne, 23, and Ashlea, 19.
Fifteen-year-old Kyle Smith was given a 30-month youth custody sentence for killing the popular footballer in Mirfield.
The Rev Wendy Dalrymple, curate at St Paul’s, said the tragedy focused hearts and minds and acted as a catalyst for the Matrix project.
“For weeks the town was stunned and shocked by the violence and couldn’t quite believe it had happened,” she said.
“We went into the nightclub just to be there if anyone needed us – we just hung around where young people dropped off flowers just in case they wanted to talk.
“We opened up the town centre church for those that wanted somewhere to go. For us, it was about being there, being present.’’
The funding means the project can respond to the needs of young people in the town while extending the existing pool of volunteers.
Mirfield, like many other towns has a problem with young people hanging around on street corners and local church leaders have often discussed how best to tackle this.
A partnership between local churches, the local authority, police neighbourhood teams and local businesses has now been formed.
They meet regularly and work together to tackle town centre issues.
Wendy added: “The key for us was about being preventative and enabling them to make the right choices for themselves.”