LONDON – England star Raheem Sterling is to pay for the funeral of former Crystal Palace youth player Damary Dawkins who he says was an "example to us all".
Dawkins died aged 13 of leukaemia in March – Sterling had supported a campaign to find a suitable stem cell donor for him.
According to an appeal page, Dawkins did receive a stem cell match a few days before Christmas but he relapsed in February.
His family had set up a GoFundMe page to raise £15,000 ($19,400) to give Dawkins the "best send off and celebration of life" – but Sterling has assumed all the costs himself.
Special night in so many ways ☝🏾✨ RIP Damary, gone but u will never be forgotten. ❤️ pic.twitter.com/AIJ0YVi5SY— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) March 22, 2019
"Damary was a special young man who touched a lot of lives, including my own. Positive until the end, he was an example to us all," said Sterling, who will attend the funeral on Friday.
Sterling paid tribute to Damary by lifting his England shirt to reveal a picture of the two of them together following his second goal in the 5-0 win over the Czech Republic in their Euro 2020 qualifier in March.
Their close relationship echoes that of former England international Jermain Defoe and Sunderland fan Bradley Lowery, who died of a rare form of cancer aged just six in 2017.
Defoe, who was playing for Sunderland at the time, forged a close bond with the youngster – he has his name tattooed on his right arm – and carried the boy he described as his "best friend" onto the pitch at Wembley for an England international with Lithuania.AFP