CHILDREN who will be spending Christmas in hospital were bowled over when they were visited by the entire first team of Durham County Cricket Club team, out spreading festive cheer.

Durham’s entire first team including England’s Ben Stokes and Mark Wood, alongside coaches Neil Killeen and Sam Clark, as well as director of cricket Marcus North, visited the respiratory and surgery wards at the Great North Children’s Hospital in Newcastle (GNCH).

Together they wrote autographs, handed out signed photographs, t-shirts and caps as well as entertaining the children and their families who will be spending the festive season at the hospital this year.

Durham’s marketing team and Cricket Foundation manager Josie Pointon, who helped develop a partnership between the GNCH and the club last year and which has seen DCCC fast bowler Chris Rushworth become an ambassador, were also in attendance.

Rushworth said: “It’s been amazing to be able to come along today and try and put a smile on some of these youngsters’ faces that will hopefully take their mind off things for a little while.

“It’s a real eye-opener to see how strong some of these children and families are and makes myself and I’m sure the rest of the squad see how fortunate we are.

“Christmas should be an enjoyable time for everyone, but unfortunately in some cases this isn’t the reality. Therefore,it’s an opportunity for us as athletes to try and offer some relief and a distraction for these kids.”

Durham and England fast bowler, Mark Wood added: “It was special to be able to come and see these guys at Christmas and we really hope they’re all home as soon as possible.”

GNCH research and innovations manager, Julie Anderson, said: “We were very grateful to all of the Durham players who visited us.”