Jack Littlejohns says he wants to use his inclusion in England’s Lionhearts squad as a platform to help more people with disabilities in his local area.
The proud Devonian and disability football volunteer learned of his call-up from Three Lions and Liverpool star Jordan Henderson, after a 2020 which started with him raising money for Barnstaple Ability FC before proving even more of a hero during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It means the world to me, it really does,” said Jack, after receiving his message and squad number four shirt to confirm his place in our 23-strong squad of heroes.
"I'm sitting here thinking: 'Am I going to wake up from this dream soon?'
"It's just phenomenal and to be recognised as part of the England Lionhearts squad, and to be alongside Captain Sir Tom Moore, it's just unbelievable.
"Don't ever let a disability knock your ability to achieve greatness for yourself and I want to use this as a platform for so many disabled people in our area.”
Football has helped change @JackLJ777’s life. Now he’s determined to make a difference for others ❤️— England (@England) December 27, 2020
We asked @JHenderson to help us surprise Jack and welcome him to our squad of #Lionhearts! pic.twitter.com/t2fFOGLPYD
As a player with learning difficulties himself, Jack is part of the Barnstaple Ability FC, which caters for people that have either a disability or mental health issues.
He helps out the club in his spare time and before the pandemic, organised a raffle draw by himself which raised over £1250 so that disabled players could continue to enjoy the beautiful game.
And he also promotes the club to disabled children in the area – whether it be on the local radio station or paying local visits to schools and colleges and talking about how football has benefited his life and helps others around him.
Once the pandemic struck, Jack helped keep the club’s players and team spirit together by sending cards and creating gift hampers before raising more funds by shaving off his hair and beard for charity.
The Lionhearts initiative, supported by BT, is paying homage to 23 inspirational individuals who have gone above and beyond during this challenging time for the nation and kicked-off with Captain Sir Tom Moore being named as the group's skipper.
The squad so far...
1.Captain Sir Tom Moore – Record-breaking centenarian who raised more than £32million for NHS Charities Together
2. Ranjit Singh – The wrestling coach from Wolverhampton helped organise daily meals for 300 people and the distribution of PPE equipment
4. Jack Littlejohns - The disability football volunteer kept his club and community spirit going during COVID-19 pandemic
5. Betty-Leigh Allinson – Football shirt enthusiast aged five who has raised over £27,000 for a Hertfordshire hospice through a cycling feat
6. Harmonie-Rose Allen - Inspirational meningitis survivor and fundraiser, who raised over £75k through her own 2.6 Challenge
7. Imogen Papworth-Heidel - The young footballer embarked on a mission to do a keepie-uppie for every keyworker in the UK and raised over £10,000 for nine charities in the process.
8. Mehdi Tahero - His restaurant Fuel Catering helped to feed frontline workers and members of the local community in Plymouth throughout 2020.
9. Tobias Weller – Nine-year-old inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore to raise almost £150,000 for Sheffield-based charities
10. Joe Wicks - The YouTube fitness coach led the nation and beyond through a daily exercise class for 18 weeks during lockdown.
11. Dr Meenal Viz & Dr Nishant Joshi - Couple campaigning for better PPE for their NHS colleagues.
12. Nana Badu – His organisation, BADU Sports, provided a helpline, food bank and deliveries to vulnerable members of the local community in Hackney.
13. Dr Sadif Rafiq - The Cheshire-based GP suffered twice from COVID-19 but continued to tirelessly support her patients.
14. Kian Cormier - The teenager produced visors for his local community in Surrey, while continuing his studies.
15. Hassan Akkad – Award-winning film maker who answered a call to be a cleaner in his local hospital before raising awareness of NHS bereavement fund
16. Akbar Khan - Bradford-based volunteer for a charity for people with disabilities who brought their community together during COVID-19 lockdown
17. Ayesha Pakravan - The chef set up Vital Meals during lockdown and went on to provide over 15,000 free meals to people in London
18. Dema Aktaa - Syrian refugee who helped raise money for COVID-19 outbreaks in refugee camps by walking on her prosthetic leg.
19. Tony Hudgell - Celebrated young fundraiser who raised £1.6m for the hospital which saved his life as a baby.
20. Ian Alcorn - Family man who turned camping in his garden into more than £200,000 for the NHS.
21. Emdad Rahman - The Barking-based volunteer ran a service delivering books around London on his bike throughout lockdown.
22. Daniel Sukula – Community leader from Bolton who, after being saved from deportation back to DR Congo, founded a centre for disadvantaged youths.
23. Jay Flynn - The virtual quizmaster helped raise money for multiple charities and entered the Guinness Book of Records during lockdown