Ian Rush rounded off a week of intensive Liverpool FC activity in China by paying a surprise visit to a children's orphanage before flying back to the UK.
Having opened a museum on Tuesday, officially announced the launch of ambitious new football academy on Friday and held a talent show and match viewing party for fans on Saturday night, the visit to the Social Welfare Centre of Guilin on Sunday allowed the club to bring some much needed happiness into the lives of the desperately poor kids.
While many of the children being looked after at the centre were orphans, others had been abandoned as babies when their parents had discovered they suffered from a physical or mental disability. Despite the hardship of their lives, for an hour on Sunday, the kids got treated to a party and a visit from Rush and the LFC mascot, Mighty Red. As a treat, McDonald's Happy Meals and small gifts were handed out by LFC officials and staff from Kingsborn Holdings, the club's partners at the new football academy.
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"This is the first time a famous celebrity from overseas has visited the children," revealed Liang Di Bo, the principal of the welfare centre. "We have never had a big event like this before so the children are very happy. You can see on their faces what it means to get the gifts and meet Ian Rush and the staff from Liverpool. Some of the younger children might not realise what is happening but the older ones certainly do. I want to thank Liverpool Football Club and Kingsborn for making today happen as it means so much to us."
For Rush, who laughed, joked and played with the children from the minute he arrived, it was the perfect way to end a great week in China.
"The kids were brilliant," he told Liverpoolfc.com. "Despite their hardships, they were so happy and full of fun and energy. One boy was chasing me around trying to shoot me with his toy gun the whole time. It's when you visit places like this that you realise just how lucky we are to have the lives we have. Seeing the children with big smiles on their faces was fantastic but I think the real heroes at places like these are the staff who look after the children and care for them every day. It can't be easy at all but they do a wonderful job. It's easy for us to come and visit but they are there every day and night and they have my full respect and when Liverpool travel abroad, it's important that we keep visiting places like this. It's the Liverpool way."