Overjoyed youngster Alex Grant just can’t hide his smiles after getting the present of a lifetime.
The eight-year-old Hartlepool lad, who is a huge Everton supporter, got to meet all his footballing heroes in one day when he walked out in front of more than 39,000 fans as a mascot.
Alex - who is battling an ear condition known as microtia - was the star for a day at Goodison Park for the match against Manchester United.
It was freezing cold and pouring with rain - but Alex didn’t mind because it was the perfect day, said his over-the-moon mum Katy Grant.
The Greatham Primary School pupil met manager Sam Allardyce. He pulled on two Everton shirts, met all the players in the dressing room, had his photograph taken pitchside, and walked out at the start of the match hand in hand with his hero - club captain Wayne Rooney.
Katy told the Hartlepool Mail: “He was on the pitch with the players for five minutes. It was absolutely pouring down. It was so cold he almost turned blue, but he came off the pitch saying it was the most amazing present ever.”
He was on the pitch with the players for five minutes. It was absolutely pouring down. It was so cold he almost turned blue, but he came off the pitch saying it was the most amazing present everKaty Grant
It was all thanks to the Bradley Lowery Foundation which had highlighted Alex on its web page as one of the children it was supporting, said Katy.
Alex’s online photograph - of him wearing the Everton colours - was spotted by club officials.
They invited Alex to be the mascot on New Year’s Day and Katy said: “Everton lost 2-0 but we didn’t care. Alex was so excited he could not get his words out.”
Head of engagement at Everton Football Club, Scott McLeod, said: “Bradley was a very special little boy who meant so much to Evertonians and everyone at the club. It is a privilege to be able to assist Bradley’s family and the charity founded in his name and we hope Alex had a wonderful day as our mascot.”
The Bradley Lowery Foundation was set up last year to help support the families of other unwell children who are fighting their own battles and have started their own fundraising campaigns.
Bradley’s mum Gemma Lowery said: “Bradley had such a special relationship with Everton and as a family we were so grateful that we got to make some wonderful memories of our own at Goodison Park.
“Everton has continued to support our family and the charity set up in Bradley’s name and it’s fantastic that together we’ve been able to make Alex’s dream come true. Hopefully the foundation will be able to support as many children as possible in the future and help to make their dreams come true as well.“
Katy said: “I can never thank Lynn and Gemma from the Bradley Lowery Foundation enough.
“And I want to thank Everton who could not have treated us any better, especially Christine Prior and Jessica Stewart who looked after us.”
Alex was born with microtia, which is the under-development of his external ear, and aural atresia, which is a lack of an external ear canal.
The Ear For Alex campaign was set up to send the Greatham youngster to America for treatment from John Reinisch, the Los Angeles-based specialist who has developed the Medpor method of ear reconstruction which treats microtia.
The campaign has a target of £35,000 and has raised more than £13,000 so far. To support the cause, visit the Ear for Alex page on Facebook where donations can be made.