Football clubs unite after Bradley Lowery pic storm

Written by on 18th October 2023

It was an incident that shocked the nation, but at the same time has led to a massive outpouring of support for the Bradley Lowery Foundation – and an unexpected link between Sunderland and Sheffield Wednesday. Adam Foster reports.

After Sunderland’s 3-0 win over Sheffield Wednesday at the Hillsborough Stadium, some awful images began circulating online.

The pictures were of two Sheffield Wednesday fans taunting Sunderland fans with a photo of Bradley Lowery after the Black Cats victory at the end of September.

Bradley Lowery was a young Sunderland fan who suffered from neuroblastoma, an aggressive and rare form of cancer. He sadly lost his battle in 2017 but had touched everyone’s hearts within the footballing community, particularly former Sunderland striker Jermaine Defoe, whom he had a very special bond with.

Jermaine Defoe, pictured with Bradley at the Pride of the North East Awards, 2017

Dale Houghton, 31, who was pictured laughing as he taunted the Sunderland supporters, pleaded guilty to a public order offence and is due to be sentenced next month.

However, the response to this incident from Sheffield Wednesday fans and the wider footballing community was extremely positive and heart-warming.

Following the incident, a GoFundMe page was set up by Leanne Wood from the Sheffield Wednesday Football Club Women’s Supporters Group. At the time of writing, it has raised £29,000.

Following this fundraiser being set up, Sunderland fan Stephen Langley set up one for Jude Jameson, a young Sheffield Wednesday fan who passed away from the same condition as Bradley.

The Bradley Lowery Foundation, created in Bradley’s honour, said that they are “lost for words” with the amount raised, adding “You have all shown so much kindness and love,” in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Lauren Allen, who is also a member of the Sheffield Wednesday Women’s Supporters Club, spoke to Spark Sunderland about how and why the fundraiser came about.

“Firstly, the fundraiser idea was suggested by one of our members after the awful photos were circulating around social media. We decided that we wanted to do something positive in the very negative situation and show the footballing world that Sheffield Wednesday are an amazing fanbase,” she told Spark.

“We wanted to create something that could make a difference and, in a way, apologise to Bradley’s family.”

Lauren added: “We knew Wednesday fans were great, but the amount raised is phenomenal. We’ve had messages from fans saying ‘well done’ for turning a horrible situation into a very positive outcome.”

Sheffield Wednesday’s captain, Barry Bannan, as well as midfielder Will Vaulks have contributed to the fundraiser, and Lauren believes that this demonstrates how the wider footballing community can come together in a positive manner.

“Fans from clubs up and down the country have shown their gratitude for the fundraiser and supported it.”

“We have had hundreds of donations from fans who aren’t Wednesday fans and I think we managed to show cancer has no colours.”

There was also another positive story to come out of the fundraiser begun by the Sheffield Wednesday Football Club Women’s Supporters Group.

Lauren told Spark: “Sunderland fans set up their own fundraiser after hearing the passing of Jude, one of our young fans who tragically lost his battle to the same illness Bradley did.

“To me and every other Sheffield Wednesday fan, this meant a lot. This has definitely brought Sunderland and Sheffield Wednesday closer and we have gained a lot of respect for one another.”

After finding this out, Spark Sunderland spoke exclusively to Stephen Langley, the Sunderland fan who set up the fundraiser for Jude Jameson.

He said: “After the shocking pic [sic] which appeared of Bradley and the amazing response of the Sheffield public in setting up the fund, we found out on Saturday (30th September) that they lost a young lad to the same condition.

“I thought it would be a good idea to reciprocate the gesture and set up a fund on behalf of Jude from Sunderland fans.”

The money raised from the Sheffield Wednesday Football Club Women’s Supporters Club fundraiser will go to the Bradley Lowery Foundation, and Lauren added: “The money will be going towards a holiday home in Scarborough for children and their families with cancer. Hopefully, this can make a huge difference in their lives.”

The holiday home, Super Brad’s Pad, received a unique donation from England captain Harry Kane after Jermaine Defoe reached out to him.

Speaking to BBC Radio Tees, Gemma Lowery, Bradley’s mum, said Defoe was doing a raffle to raise as many funds as possible for the Bradley Lowery Foundation holiday home.

Gemma Lowery with son, Bradley

After contacting Kane, the England skipper donated an England football that has been dipped in 24-carat gold leaf and signed by all the England players.

Kane had previously presented Gemma with the Helen Rollason award on behalf of Bradley at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Awards in 2017. The award is given for outstanding achievement in the face of adversity.

Speaking about the holiday home, Gemma said: “It’s a five-bedroom, luxury holiday home for children to be able to go and make memories with their families, not just mam and dad, we want all the family to be able to make memories.”

The build had been delayed by Covid and the cost-of-living crisis, but Gemma hopes that it will be completed soon and that families will be able to make memories.

She also thanked everyone for their support, adding: “We appreciate every penny that we get, and without people’s support we wouldn’t be able to build the holiday home and the families that we want to support wouldn’t be able to have that dream holiday.”

Links to both GoFundMe’s have been attached if you wish to make a donation, as well as the Bradley Lowery Foundation website.

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