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Young football fan reaches 7.1 million keepy-uppies to help key workers

Joe Giddens

By Sam Russell, PA

An 11-year-old girl has completed her challenge to reach 7.1 million keepy-uppies, one for every UK key worker, to raise money for a number of charities.

Football fan Imogen Papworth-Heidel, from Hauxton, near Cambridge, did the last 3,000 keepy-uppies at Cambridge United’s Abbey Stadium on Wednesday.

She has raised more than £10,800 for nine charities.

Imogen completed a total of 1,123,586 keepy-uppies during an unbroken 195-day run, reaching more than 7,000 a day during lockdown and the summer holidays.

The remaining 5,976,414 were donated by around 2,000 people who took videos of themselves joining in the challenge and emailed them to Imogen’s parents.

Among those joining in the challenge were England and Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford and Spandau Ballet star Martin Kemp.

Imogen began her challenge after she was inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore, who completed 100 laps of his garden before his 100th birthday to raise money for the NHS.

The schoolgirl, who trains with Cambridge United’s youth academy and Essex County FA Girls Regional Talent Club, decided to do one keepy-uppie for every UK key worker.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies estimated the figure, with around 22% of all working-age people in the UK employed in key worker occupations.

Imogen, an Arsenal fan who took up football at the age of six, was initially doing 200 keepy-uppies per day but her parents calculated it would take her 97 years to complete, so she started to do more and got help from others.

She said she did not think she would would reach the 7.1 million mark so quickly, adding: “I’m just absolutely speechless at how much money we’ve raised, how many keepy-uppies have been donated and how many kind messages of support have come in.”

Her parents, Sarah, 37, and Karl, 50, who both work for the NHS in patient safety, helped count the keepy-uppies.

Asked how he had found keeping a tally, Mr Heidel said it was “tiring”.

He said they had received up to 50 videos per day, adding: “Literally, we were sitting there counting up till about midnight some nights doing it, just trying to put the latest figures out.”

People from around the world joined in, he said, including a patient having chemotherapy who did keepy-uppies with a balloon next to her hospital bed.

“I think the most amazing thing about it is the number of people that she has inspired to have got out there, to have started practising keepy-uppies,” said Mr Heidel.

“I’m really proud of her.

“She could easily have sat on her X-Box or played computer games but actually what she’s done is gone out into the garden, rain or shine, and just banged them out.”

Imogen recently met Captain Sir Tom when they were both honoured at the Pride of Britain Awards.

She has also been honoured in the FA’s Lionhearts squad, which pays homage to 23 inspirational “everyday heroes” who have gone above and beyond during this challenging time for the nation.

She has been given the number seven shirt in the squad, whose other members include fitness coach Joe Wicks and Captain Sir Tom.

Imogen raised money for the NHS, Mind, The Fire Fighters Charity, Police Care UK, The Care Workers Charity, SSAFA – The Armed Forces Charity, Education Support, East Anglian Air Ambulance, and Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust.

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