X Factor star Anthony Russell has been praised for his support for the family of a ‘gentle giant’ who tragically died after an epileptic fit.
Michael McKenna, was just 32 when he died after suffering an epileptic fit at his Whitburn home, on December 16, 2017.
Mum Lynn Mckenna rushed to her son’s aid after hearing a bang from his bedroom and tried to perform CPR in a bid to save him.
Paramedics were also called, but despite their best efforts, Michael sadly passed away.
His family have spent the last year fundraising for Epilepsy Action and now are gearing up to hold an event in aid of the charity to mark the first anniversary since his death.
The event is set to take place on Friday, December 21, at the Whitburn and Marsden Social Club from 7pm.
And although the last 12 months have been an extremely difficult time for the family, they say the support from X Factor singer Anthony has brought them some comfort.
The Livepool singer - who is now through to the semi-finals during his second chance on the hit ITV talent show - struck up a friendship with Michael and his family after they messaged him on Twitter and Instagram following his first appearance on the show in 2017 to show their support.
Since then they have remained in contact and the singer has helped to raise the profile of their charity work by reaching out to his social media following asking them for their support.
Michael’s sister Samantha Venn, 36, said: “Anthony was on the X Factor last year and he got through the first lot of auditions.
“He sang one particular song called Issues and Michael was watching with our mum and he said it was a really good song because it was relevant to him as he had issues with epilepsy.”
The family expressed their support for the star on social media and when Anthony had to leave the show and after Michael had passed away, his mum Lynn continued to lend her support to Anthony.
Mum-of-two Samantha continued: “Anthony was removed from the show for personal issues and my brother and mum supported him from home.
“When my brother passed my mum reached out to Anthony and they have struck up a lovely friendship.
“This year Anthony is back on the X Factor and has made it through to the semi-finals and mum of course has supported him every step of the way.
“Mum said to him if you ever do a tour she would come along and support him as the song meant a lot as she watched it with my brother.
“They messaged back and forward and told him about the fundraising campaign and he said he would support it.
“It has been quite nice that he reached out to her.”
In the year of fundraising for Epilepsy Action, the family have raised around £2,000, with Michael’s friends taking on the Great North Run and a coast-to-coast bike ride in his memory.
Anthony won’t be able to come along to the latest event, but has helped to appeal for the likes of raffle and auction prizes, which include spa days and hampers.
Samantha added: “Michael was a gentle giant.
“He loved his family and his friends meant the world to him.
“Epilepsy Action were a great support to Michael when he was going through his awful illness so we wanted to give something back.
“We are hoping to raise as much as possible and it will be a celebration of his life.”
Posting on Instagram to his 106,000 followers, Anthony said: “Michael has been inspiring me to keep going every week.
“Anyone who can help Lynn with raffle prizes please get in touch.
“Show this lady some love, she has been through hell and is still so pure and caring.
“RIP Michael brother.”
Michael leaves behind parents Lynn and Chris McKenna, sisters Kristie McKenna, Karlie Mole and Samantha Venn, as well as three nieces and nephews.
The family are now looking to set up support group for mums who have had a similar experience to Lynn Mckenna called MAMS, standing for Michael Andrew McKenna.
Anyone who may be able to support the group by offering a space for them to meet can email Sophie Brownson at email@example.com