Tynecastle Park is a venue that is more than just every other Saturday when 18,000 souls decked in maroon turn up to watch Heart of Midlothian, as has been the case for most of its existence. In time, the ticket office and club shop would bring fans to McLeod Street and Gorgie Road during the week.

Now there is a constant hubbub with a museum as well as a thriving restaurant regarded as one of the best in the entire city. Of course, there is also the Tynecastle Park Hotel. Since opening earlier this year it has turned this particular part of the city into a 24/7 operation.

And then, tucked away in the bowels of the Wheatfield Stand, the famous ground houses some of the most crucial and fulfilling work that is undertaken and achieved in EH11. Big Hearts, the club's charity arm has offices, meeting rooms and, most importantly, The Shed which allows services and projects to be delivered which reach out to the local area and beyond, impacting lives positively and, in some cases, in a life-changing manner.

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It was in those offices just along from the Memorial Garden and behind the community football pitch which 100s, perhaps thousands of kids have played on down the years, Hearts Standard sat down with Big Hearts chief executive Craig Wilson and Laura Livingston, the charity's communications manager, to discuss the upcoming Big Hearts Day to be held on Saturday for the Premiership fixture against Kilmarnock at Tynecastle.

This weekend will be the eighth edition of the showpiece day with the core aim of raising £30,000 to help with the variety of services the organisation runs that reach the local community and further afield. It is a Monday-to-Friday operation that has come a long way since the first support service was launched in 2015 when, aided by Ann Budge, Big Hearts took a new direction with a different focus to what had gone on before.

"The club has done so much to reset itself over the 10 years and in many ways, our journey is very similar to that in terms of being the first year of Ann Budge and that is when they decided, 'What does Big Hearts mean now?" Craig explained. "It would have been Ann who was at the heart of that, going it should be a charity for families, it should be there to support.

"I would take it as a huge compliment that many of the other football club charities do similar or want to do more of what we do rather than it being about football first. There is definitely still a place for that like kids playing football, but actually, more of the clubs are doing even more of the changing lives stuff around mental health and the changing room project.

"Even at the time I don’t think I really realised that some of the decisions the club made have helped us massively, like not taking gambling money, which I think makes our work even more genuine. It’s more rooted as part of the club."

Craig and Laura rattle off the variety of projects and support services the charity offers. It gets to the point where a set of fingers are not enough to keep track. Football Memories, Kinship Care, Youth Befriending, the Changing Room, Switching Play, Welcome Through Football, Warm Welcome Lunch, School's Out. Just some of those provided.

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Big Hearts caters to people with different needs across a wide range of ages and backgrounds. It might be someone with dementia whose memory is stirred by the mere mention of Hearts, an old programme or picture. Or someone looking for help with their mental health and needing the correct environment to talk to about their issues. Maybe a young kid in need of a role model or a refugee whose whole life has been uprooted.

The Warm Welcome Lunch has developed into a social occasion as much as it has for the meal itself, going from a one-off project to one that can be used by between 60 and 80 people each week while Maroon Memories has expanded to volunteers visiting care homes to connect with people.

"We deliver 12, 13, 14 different projects," Craig said. "People can volunteer, fundraise, be a participant, they could be here for their mental health, a social connection, whatever reason. There is no need for us to put them in a box that says you are a memories participant, you’re a changing rooms participant, that’s the strong bit about football changing lives, it doesn’t really matter what you are involved in."

Laura added: "Nobody knows why you are coming here. You are walking into a football stadium. You are not walking into a doctors. People might know why you are going there whereas you are coming here for help with your mental health but no one knows that. There are so many different things you could be coming here for."

Big Hearts is a safe space for so many. It can be both a sanctuary and an avenue for hope. That is detailed in a video that the charity will release later this week highlighting its heroes with "five stories of people who have changed their lives through Big Hearts, not just project participants but volunteers and community fundraisers".

One of the heroes explained he wouldn't be here if it wasn't for Big Hearts.

"All their stories are different, some have come for mental health support, volunteers because they had some spare time and wanted to give some time back, we’ve got a community fundraiser who got help turned things around a wee bit and he’s done six kiltwalks for us now," Laura said. "Faces who have been with us for quite a while. They have all got quite powerful stories."

The importance and power of Big Hearts, rooted in Gorgie and Dalry, can't be underestimated. That's the message that has been delivered in presentations to academy and office staff over the past week. Craig and colleagues will present to the first team later this week.

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The buy-in from the club is important, none more so than the players whose voices can be heard louder and reach further. Laura and Craig spoke of the impact a simple tweet from Lawrence Shankland had following the League Cup semi-final earlier this season when a Big Hearts participant was the mascot.

Both Craig Gordon and Andrew Webster have always been willing supporters of the charity. Craig noted the weight of players and staff, past and present speaking at services Big Hearts offer, including Christophe Berra when he was at the club and more recently Frankie McAvoy and Gordon Forrest. Cammy Devlin recently stopped to drop off football gear, something Josh Ginnelly did when he was at the club.

Come Saturday, the players will run out in a unique kit which will then be auctioned off with every penny going to the charity. Having witnessed it, there is no question fans will be keen to snap them up.

"The team walking out with the Big Hearts logo on the shirt is brilliant for the staff but also those who have come to projects, it gives them something else, that’s my club, I’m part of that," Craig said.

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As well as continuing to raise awareness of the charity and that important and powerful work they do throughout the year through support staff and valued volunteers, it is geared to raising as much money as possible to carry it all out. With the funds generated being unrestricted and not tied to one project, it allows Big Hearts to be flexible, to tweak what they do and deliver services that are needed. 

"It allows us to react really quickly, change really quickly to do ultimately what is right," Craig explained.

"There is so much more to do given the challenges in terms of the external chaos with funding for other charities and we’ve got this unique thing around football and fan support that can actually take us forward to help even more people in different ways versus a charity up the road that has maybe just had its funding cut by 25 per cent.

"Where else are they getting their money from? They’ve not got the strong bit we’ve got in terms of having 18,000 fans coming here on Saturday. There is almost more onus on us to do more therefore days like Big Hearts Day are huge for us."

For 8 years, Big Hearts Day has brought together the Hearts support, raising awareness of our charity’s mission to offer free opportunities to adults and children, whilst celebrating our work in changing lives through the beautiful game.

We invite all sides of the Hearts family to make a donation, no matter how big or small, towards our vital work in supporting the local community.

Online donations are now welcome: Big Hearts Heroes fundraiser or you can text BIGHEARTS to 70085 to donate £5.

All donations, no matter how big or small, will be gratefully received and will help our charity to support even more families within the local community.