After years of playing and coaching for the UC Stars, Aaiden Bellingham passed away in 2017. A sudden heart condition took his life far too young, leaving a hole in not only his family’s lives but also the football clubs.
On that day Adrian Bellingham lost a son.
However out of the tragedy a beautiful event was created, aptly named the Bellingham Cup. Since its inception in 2018, it has become one of the biggest events on the club’s calendar. Both current and former players often travel from near and far to come and participate in the gala day.
After the club created the event, Adrian made it what it is today; with hundreds of players and supporters raising money for the Agnes Ginges Centre for Molecular Cardiology at the Centenary Institute.
2022 was a big year for the tournament, with over 15 companies supporting the competition through different means.
I sat down with Adrian to talk to him about the Cup. I wanted to know more about its creation, the process behind running it, and the importance that it holds for him.
Q: Before the Bellingham Cup was created, what was your role at the UC Stars?
A: “My involvement before the Cup kicked off was basically in a support capacity for Aaiden. I would come along and I’d watch him play. Just as a dad on the sideline watching your son run around on a football field.”
Q: After Aaiden passed away can you describe the process behind forming the cup and the decision behind its creation?
A: “Really the Bellingham Cup came from the club; we’ll take no responsibility at all. We lost Aaiden in 2017. Then in 2018, the club decided to kick off the season with a bit of a get-together and have a kick around and called it the Bellingham Cup. We were invited along on the day obviously, and it was an exceptionally emotional day. It was only about six months after we’d lost Aidan and the UC Stars, or the UC Pumas as they were called in those days, kicked the gala day off.”
Q: You’ve obviously now taken a little bit more of a hands-on approach with the tournament. Can you tell me a little bit about how that sort of came about?
A: “I’ve got a background in logistics, and I’ve done a lot of fundraising with a lot of organisations. I was involved for 10 years with a Navy charity bike ride and we raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through that. I gave my experience to the process and helped set up a few things and got a few sponsors in and asked some people to tag along, and its sort of evolved from there. The supporters of the Bellingham Cup have been enormous, and we’ve turned it into a bit of a fundraiser. The proceeds of the day go to the Centenary Institute in Sydney at the RPA Hospital, in particular, the Agnes Ginges Centre for Molecular Cardiology. They’re the people that look into and do the research into the sudden cardiac death of the young.”
Q: What’s been some of the biggest changes that you’ve seen since it kicked off as a bit of a pre-season kick-around to what we’re seeing today?
A: “It’s very humbling. I consider a supporter as somebody who’s contributed anything from $50 to $500. It doesn’t matter, they’re a supporter of the Bellingham Cup and it has sort of evolved where you know, we’ve had a coffee van there for a couple of years now. So you know, when you turn up in the morning, you want to have a cup of coffee before your first game and we had people busting down our doors wanting to do it for us. So, it’s a very humbling experience. I approached Woolworths and I approached a lot of big companies and they’re more than happy to contribute to the day. And we’re at a stage now where I think it still needs to remain as a club event. That’s what I wanted, or that’s what our family wants it to be. It’s a club event. It’s about family. It’s about Aaiden’s love for the club. And (that) he really did, he was not only a player but a coach so that’s what it’s all about. I think we’ve hit a good spot at the present moment in the way that the whole thing is run on the day.”
Q: So the tournament was a couple of weeks ago. Tell me about how the tournament went in your eyes?
A: “I think with it we’ve sort of hit a sweet spot in regards to the tournament. I and the family sort of had a bit of a chat about how we don’t want it to get out of hand or get too big. As I say, it’s most important to us that it involves the club because that’s what it’s all about; the UC Stars and Aaiden’s involvement there and the opportunity to raise some dollars for the Centenary Institute in Sydney. So, the day I think it was just perfect. Everybody had a bit of fun and that’s what it was about.”
Q: How proud are you that the competition sort of now just become such a staple event in the UC stars calendar and something that so many players wouldn’t miss?
A: “I have thought about that a lot. To hear the UC Stars’ players and committee say things about how important the Bellingham Cup is to them, it’s humbling. It’s humbling to the whole family; how they talk about it and how important it is to them. That makes me work harder to make sure that the event goes off the way that it did, and there’s lots of people around that help. My orange family, which is the State Emergency Service. The Belconnen unit feels exactly the same that this event is important to them as well. They will all volunteer their Saturday to be there all day to help me with the barbeque and man the canteen. Help set up and then take down all those little things in the background that just happen. And that’s my orange family that do that for us.”
As you can see from this interview, Adrian Bellingham is a special man. After tragedy some people struggle to recover, especially when the person who passed is your son. Out of this tragedy Adrian made a celebration, a day to remember the life of Aaiden. Hundreds of people mark the day in their calendar every year because you can feel the importance of it as soon as you get to the grounds. From devastation, he decided to run an event, raising funds in an effort to make sure that no one has to go through the pain that he did, that no one has to lose a young family member or friend to heart disease.