A CHARITY football match is set to kick off in honour of a brave youngster who is battling a rare illness.
Jack Wilkinson, aged five, spent more than a month in hospital last year.
We’re hoping a lot of people will come along to watch the match and cheer us on.Martin Wilkinson
After being let out of Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary for his nursery school graduation, Jack is now fighting back to health and settling into school at West Boldon Primary.
Now, his parents Martin Wilkinson and Keren Burdett, of Sidney Street, Boldon Colliery, are organising a charity football match to help others with Jack’s condition.
The youngster took ill on June 16, last year, and was diagnosed with atypical haemolytic uremic syndrome (AHUS) – a genetic condition which causes uncontrolled activation of the body’s immune system – and is a one in a million condition in under-fives.
The charity match, at Filtrona Park, South Shields, on Saturday, March 28, will raise funds for AHUSUK, a support group for patients and their families.
Martin, 35, said: “Every year, a friend of mine, Lee Robinson, organises a charity match in memory of his dad, Barry.
“Barry was our team coach back in the day when we were Whitburn FC, and we get together each year to play the Sunday league team from the Grey Hen, in Temple Park Road.
“Lee mentioned this year that he wanted to do it to raise money for AHUSUK, so all the young lads who played for Barry, who aren’t really that young any more, are getting back together.”
The match kicks off at the former home of South Shields FC.
Jack, who was recently nominated for Child of Courage in the Best of South Tyneside Awards, will act as the mascot for his dad’s team on the day.
Martin said: “We’re hoping a lot of people will come along to watch the match and cheer us on. Jack is going to be our mascot and the British Kidney Association has given us all T-shirts to wear.
“We’ve been talking to local businesses to get some raffle prizes and we’re going to have a penalty shoot-out and hopefully a bouncy castle for the kids too.”
Martin added: “Jack is doing really well now. He hasn’t had to have any dialysis since September, but he’s still on medication every two weeks and has to go to the hospital for check-ups.
“He managed to do his first full week at school just before Christmas and he’s really settling in and enjoying it.
“We’re hoping to raise at least £1,000 for AHUSUK through the match. Jack is really excited to be our mascot.
“He doesn’t usually like football that much, but I think he’s looking forward to being the centre of attention.”