Bradley Lowery named mascot of new Sunderland AFC supporters Heaven Branch
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Set up by co-founders Joanne Youngson and Billy Wright with the backing of both the club and fans’ Branch Liaison Council, the branch is for lifelong fans who have passed away.
‘Membership’ has soared to more than 800, giving deceased fans an eternal place in the club’s affections and offering solace to family and friends left behind.
Bradley lost his battle for life, aged just six, in 2017 but he had touched hearts nationwide with his battle against neuroblastoma.
Now he has been officially named as the Heaven Branch’s new mascot.
“We have appointed officers, such as chairman, secretary and transport officer from late fans who have become members of the Heaven Branch,” said Billy Wright.
“We discussed the possibility of a Heaven Branch mascot and, really, there could be only one choice. It had to be Bradley.
"We put it to Bradley’s family and they thought it was a great idea.”
Gemma Lowery, Bradley’s mother who helped set up the Bradley Lowery Foundation to support other families battling illness, is delighted with the appointment.
“I was over the moon when I heard from the branch that they wanted Bradley as their mascot,” said Gemma. “It’s a lovely thing to do and for Bradley to be remembered in this way.
“The whole Heaven Branch initiative is a lovely idea. So many people have a load of good memories of supporting Sunderland and becoming a member of this branch for those who have passed away helps keep their memory alive.”
The Foundation has raised more than £3million in her son’s name and has already helped 62 children and their families. It is also building a holiday home in Scarborough to give families a retreat.
“Bradley was key to this while he was alive because we needed to raise money then for his treatment,” she said. “He was thrust into the public eye but everyone fell in love with him when he was in the spotlight with Jermain Defoe and the other players and the work continues with the foundation.”
Sunderland player Jermaine Defoe befriended the Blackhall youngster and Bradley appeared as the club’s matchday mascot
He also appeared as Everton’s mascot and even lit up Wembley with his trademark smile as he accompanied Defoe as mascot before the England- Lithuania game, just months before he died.
Jermain, who is a patron of the foundation and keeps in regular contact with the Lowery family, told the BBC: “There is not a day that goes by when he’s not in my mind. The time you get at home when you sit and reflect about things. Of course I think about Bradley and I still keep in contact with the family. I’m very close to them.
“It was a really difficult time for me...I’d got used to walking out with him at games. When I got back into the England squad he came out with me at Wembley and every Sunderland home game I’d walk out with him, so it was really difficult after he died.”