No one could fail to be moved by the sight of Bradley Lowery being England’s mascot for their World Cup qualifiying match against Lithuania yesterday.
The youngster has been battling cancer for most of his life and has struck up a friendship with his favourite player, Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe.
Captain Joe Hart stepped aside to allow Defoe – recalled to the England side after an absence of more than three years – to lead the team out accompanied by Bradley. Defoe went on to score on his return in a 2-0 win and said after the game, "It's hard to put into words really. I had to keep my emotions [under control], obviously little Brad was with me. You can imagine how I felt doing that, it was special. Just to be back playing with the lads was a great feeling."
He then tweeted after the game, “I hope you had an amazing day @Bradleysfight. It was perfect to walk out at @wembleystadium with you… #BestMates #England” along with some truly fantastic photos from the day:
The five-year-old Sunderland fan, from Blackhall Colliery near Hartlepool, has been battling neuroblastoma, a type of cancer, since he was just two, and after two years of chemotherapy, the cancer went into remission. However, it returned in June last year, with his family launching an appeal to raise £700,000 to send him to America for pioneering treatment not available on the NHS.
The footballing community got behind the campaign, with Bradley appearing as a mascot for Sunderland in September and their opponents Everton donating £200,000 to the cause; however, in December it was announced that the cancer had grown and that his disease was terminal, with the best hope that treatment would prolong his life.
The fundraising has continued, though, with Bradley now undergoing the treatment at Newcastle's Royal Victoria Infirmary, rather than having to travel to America, and the family pledging that any money not used will go to someone else in need. He has been mascot for Sunderland on several further occasions and was even awarded the joint goal-of-the-month for December after scoring a penalty past Asmir Begovic at half-time during a match against Chelsea.
You can donate to the Bradley Lowery Foundation by clicking here – and here are a few more pictures of his special day at Wembley: