CONNAL Cochrane has devoted his working life to helping others. Sometimes, he has been able to help himself as well.

The headline figures of the Rangers Charity Foundation - the £6million of cash and in-kind support donated, the thousands of people of all ages and backgrounds helped or the 20 programmes that are run at any one time - tell of its scope. It is the personal stories that make the most profound impact, though.

As chief executive, Cochrane knows that only too well. He has seen countless individuals and communities benefit from the work of the Foundation and has his own reasons to be thankful.

"I climbed 100 Munros, in memory of my mum, in one year," Cochrane said as he rounded off an enlightening interview that detailed the effort and the influence of the Foundation. "And I walked the Great Glen Way, which was over 80 miles non-stop, with two Royal Marines.

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"And then 54 miles down the West Highland Way with two people from the Army. Again, in support of Armed Forces related charities.

"So I'm I'm passionate about the Foundation, but also I think for my own mental health, I think training for something can be really important for your focus.

"You know, that's an area on a personal level that I've had difficulties with over the years. So that's a really positive way for me to channel my focus and to get fit for something and hopefully improve my mental health along the way, whilst doing something positive for the Foundation."

Cochrane has been with the RCF for 18 of the 20 years that it has been in existence. When he joined, he was the only member of staff based within the Press Office at Ibrox and he has seen every manager since Alex McLeish leave their Rangers legacy.

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His own work is far from done. His previous roles since leaving University have always had a 'social conscience' and he has overseen the growth of the Foundation to a position of strength where it now has 23 full-time staff and more than a dozen community coaches.

The Foundation website offers volunteers the chance to become a 'True Blue Hero'. Every arm that is put around a shoulder or every pound raised makes a difference and Cochrane speaks passionately and warmly about the undertakings of his team and those who volunteer alongside them.

Many have benefitted from education or employment opportunities that they would simply not have had elsewhere. Others have found the services to be a safe space away from home or a community that has inspired them to change their lives for the better.

"I think there are elements of it that make me very emotional because I have seen the way so many people's lives have been touched by the Foundation in really tangible ways over the years," Cochrane said. "And the impact on people who volunteered their support for us or have donated their time or helped to raise funding.

"We've gone through a number of challenges over the years, but the Foundation has remained strong. It's never strayed from its core purpose. So, you know, there are lots of times that I can get emotional when I'm telling other people about some of the stories.

"It can sometimes be a big step for people to trust when they're so used to not trusting anyone around them. We are that person for a lot of young people, and it's because our staff are so compassionate, expert at what they do.

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"It's a privilege that we don't take lightly. But it's just amazing, some of the things that we're able to do for people because we're providing a unique hook in the community."

There is a natural benefit of working under the Rangers banner and the draws of the famous badge and iconic stadium play a part in bringing people to the Foundation. It is not just those who wear a blue scarf that take part in the wide range of programmes and activities on offer, however, and many are supporters of other clubs, or of none at all.

Cochrane takes a collaborative approach and shares ideas and best practices with his counterparts across Scotland and further afield. UNICEF are a long-standing associate of the Foundation and their partner of the year, Bowel Cancer UK, will be the focus this weekend as funds are raised and awareness is broadened at Ibrox.

Programmes such as Football Memories, Football Fans In Training and Team Talk - a men's mental wellbeing service - are operated under the banner of 'Healthy Lives'. The 'Everyone Anyone' campaign features prominently alongside the Diversity Wins movement, while the 'Potential' group represents one of the areas that Cochrane is most proud of.

Through endeavours like 'Ready For Employment' and the 'Wider Achievement' scheme that has awarded more than 300 SQA Qualifications over the last year, the Foundation has empowered people of disparate backgrounds to find work or move into further education. It offers them a sense of value, so often closing one chapter and opening another.

"We have limited resources and try and maximise what we're able to do with those resources," Cochrane said."So it's about also helping each other as a team to remember the success stories and the difference that we're making and the positive role that we've got, not just on behalf of the club as its official charity, but really within society.

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"Organisations like ours are, in a way, addressing the challenges that are faced in wider society, whether it's local, Scottish or UK government.

"We're often delivering upon the priorities of government policy, whether it's in relation to helping people have a healthier life, celebrating diversity and inclusion or helping people reach their potentials, particularly young people, through education and employability.

"We are an organisation that's delivering in all those areas in our own way. We want to do it in a tangible way and many of our programmes are long term programmes."

The links with the community have never been stronger. The guidance provided and chances offered have arguably never been more important as the nation continues to recover from the pandemic and faces the issues - be they health, education or finance - of a world that continues to offer fresh challenges to all.

The 20 year anniversary last October coincided with Rangers' 150th celebrations and countless managers and players have played their part in raising the profile of the Foundation over the seasons. Two of the most visible and cherished occasions come on Armed Forces Day and Remembrance Day and both are close to the hearts of the Rangers support.

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Work is underway on the next cycle of the Foundation's strategy that will cover the next three to five years and one significant piece is already in place. The values will not change and Cochrane wishes the charity to be the best that it can be rather than the biggest as he focuses on quality rather than quantity.

"I think one thing that is going to be a fantastic platform for the foundation is the Ibrox Community Complex, which we recently took on a long term lease from Glasgow City Council, with the strong support of the club," Cochrane said.

"I think having that bigger physical platform in the local community is really going to help transform the work that we're able to do to bring people of all ages to the Foundation to hear about the opportunities that there are with the Foundation and to create new opportunities. So I'm really excited about that."

The future is bright. A week on Sunday, it will all be about blue as volunteers take part in a 5km fun run around Ibrox. In the summer, the only way will be up as Arthur Numan and Michael Mols lead the 'Bears Up Ben Nevis' trek and the 'Big Sleepout' at Ibrox in November will raise funds to help the homeless on Rangers' doorstep.

There is a pride and a drive that permeates the team that Cochrane oversees in their Argyle House base. Yet none of the work would be possible or worthwhile without the generosity - both in time and money - from those that support the Foundation every week of the year.

"I think there's perhaps not enough awareness in wider society and the public about the work of the Rangers Charity Foundation or what other foundations like us actually do, and the huge range of programmes and impact that they can have in communities around the country," Cochrane said.

"You know, perhaps that is the work of the voluntary sector in general because it's made-up of so many different, wonderful organisations and causes. If that were all to disappear overnight, I think everybody in the country would soon know about it.

"So I think the voluntary sector in general is something to cherish and we are working very hard at the Rangers Charity Foundation to play our part in improving people's lives."