Bradley Lowery’s parents thanked the British public for ‘helping them get out of bed’ as they deal with their son’s death during an emotional night at BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards.
The Sunderland fan died in July after a brave fight with neuroblastoma – a rare type of cancer – that captured hearts around the sporting world.
During a number of appearances as mascot, Bradley struck up a close friendship with the then Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe and the pair led out England for a World Cup qualifier at Wembley in March.
His parents, Carl and Gemma, were presented with the Helen Rollason award by England manager Gareth Southgate and star striker Harry Kane at Liverpool’s Echo Arena on Sunday.
Defoe was unable to attend as he played in Bournemouth’s defeat by Liverpool on the south coast on Sunday.
The award was introduced in 1999 in memory of BBC Sport journalist and presenter Helen Rollason MBE, who lost her battle with cancer that year aged 43. Previous winners include Sir Frank Williams and Jane Tomlinson.
Speaking to Press Association Sport backstage, Gemma Lowery said: ‘We cannot explain how much this means to us and how much we appreciate everybody’s support as we’ve dealt with this horrendous heartache – it’s what gets us out of bed in the morning.’
She explained that the foundation they have set up in their son’s memory is now providing grants to parents in the same situation as them.
‘We originally thought we would limit it to cancer but we got money and support from all parts of the country and from all cultures, so we don’t want to limit it – we want it to be open all under-18s with a serious illness,’ she said.
‘We want our grants to be incentives – if you raise £10,000, we’ll give you £10,000 – but we also want to share our experiences. When we started, we didn’t know anything about fund-raising or social media.’
As well as the foundation, the Lowerys have also linked up with Sunderland to start a ‘For Bradley’ campaign to build a holiday home for children with terminal illnesses.
‘We’re still at the planning stage but we’d love it to be in Scarborough, because we went there two weeks before Bradley’s death and we have amazing memories,’ Gemma said.
Sunderland, of course, did their part to mark this special weekend for the family by winning their first home game for a year on Saturday, beating Fulham 1-0.
‘Bradley would have been so made up about that – I don’t think he ever saw them win,’ his mother joked.
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