Bradley Lowery dies, aged six, after long battle with cancer
Bradley Lowery has died following a long battle with cancer, his family said.
The six-year-old Sunderland fan lost his battle with childhood cancer neuroblastoma on Friday.
The football mascot, who struck up a friendship with England striker Jermain Defoe following his diagnosis, died at 1.35pm surrounded by relatives, his mother Gemma said in a moving Facebook post.
It read: “My brave boy has went with the angels today 07/07/17 at 13:35, in mammy and daddies arms surrounded by his family.
"He was our little superhero and put the biggest fight up but he was needed else where.
"There are no words to describe how heart broken we are.
"Thank you everyone for all your support and kind words. Sleep tight baby boy and fly high with them angel.”
The youngster, from Blackhall, County Durham, delighted Sunderland fans as he repeatedly appeared as a mascot for his beloved club.
His cheeky smile and “energy” drew Defoe to him sparking an instant connection between the pair.
In an emotional press conference held during Bradley’s final days, the footballer said: “He will always be in my heart for the rest of my life.
"There isn’t a day that goes past when I don’t wake up and check my phone or think about little Bradley.
"His love is genuine and I can see it in his eyes when he looks at me.”
A request for people to send Christmas cards to the boy with big brown eyes was backed by 250,000 people.
And those supporters followed his progress on social media as he bravely fought the pain to undergo gruelling treatment at the Royal Victoria Infirmary, Newcastle.
It was a beautiful photograph of Bradley falling asleep on his hospital bed as he cuddled his hero Defoe that touched the nation.
The Football Association invited Bradley to be a mascot for the World Cup qualifier at Wembley against Lithuania on March 26, after which Defoe was unexpectedly called up into the squad at the age of 34.
Bradley was there to see his “best friend” score his first goal in an England shirt for four years.
Captain Joe Hart let Bradley and Defoe lead the team out onto the pitch and Bradley covered his ears from the cacophony of the 78,000 crowd.
Defoe later said he struggled to keep his emotions in check as he walked out hand-in-hand with his young friend.
Bradley said afterwards: “I have had an amazing day and I will never forget Jermain because I love him so much.”
Less than 24 hours after the VIP experience, Bradley was back in hospital for more treatment to extend his life.
His family and well-wishers organised a huge party for his sixth birthday on the local cricket pitch, with a funfair and fire-eaters.
Defoe and Sunderland goalkeeper Vito Mannone joined the celebrations, attended by scores of young people from the village.
It was a landmark birthday his family had been desperate for him to live to see.
Bradley was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when he was 18 months old after a tumour was found above his left kidney.
He pulled through despite being resuscitated in hospital several times during treatment which lasted two years.
His parents Gemma and Carl were overjoyed when he got the all-clear but cancer returned and had spread in July 2016.
Scans at Christmas 2016 revealed his cancer was terminal.
His family had started to fundraise to get Bradley groundbreaking treatment in the US and Everton FC had pledged a remarkable £200,000 towards the cost.
Those plans were shelved by the diagnosis, after £700,000 was raised.
Football fans around the country had already taken him to their hearts, chanting his name at games and holding banners saying: “Cancer has no colours.”
He was a guest of honour at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year bash and he was given Match Of The Day’s goal of the month award in December after scoring in the warm-up of Sunderland’s game against Chelsea.