THE dad of an ill SAFC mascot mocked for wearing a life-saving backpack on the pitch today branded his ridiculers a “disgrace”.
Little George Johnson’s dream came true when he was asked to be the club’s mascot before the Black Cats’ clash with Everton on Boxing Day.
Proud as punch, George, who has already undergone 75 operations as he battles a condition that has baffled medics, strolled out at Goodison Park carrying the back-pack containing his life-saving medication.
But the four-year-old, of Farringdon, who has spent most of his young life in hospital, was mocked on the official sports Twitter site of the Mirror newspaper.
Unaware of George’s condition, the site tweeted “a mascot with a backpack on. What is happening to the game?” and “No to modern mascots”.
Today, George’s dad, Neil Johnson, 33, said family, friends and supporters of George had been angered by the remarks, which have since been apologised for.
Neil added: “The whole thing’s left a sour taste in my mouth.
“Family and friends got in touch to tells us they’d seen the tweets, which were nothing short of a disgrace.
“George has been through 75 operations and spent most of his life in hospital. That backpack contained a drainage tube and life-saving equipment allowing him to get nourishment into his bloodstream.”
The comments were taken down, but an angry online backlash from supporters of George continued for days.
“I have been in contact with the paper and they have apologised,” added Neil.
George’s condition means he cannot eat, drink or swallow. He was sent to London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, but doctors there could not diagnose his condition.
Now, with the backing of the hospital, his family have set up an appeal to send the Sunderland fan to the US to see a consultant. Neil added: “When I got in touch with the paper, they did say they would make a donation to George’s cause.”
George got the chance to be star mascot at the Boxing Day game after spending his first Christmas Day at home.
Neil added: “He had a great time. We even saw him on Match of the Day.”
The family have spent a large part of the last three years trying to find out what is wrong with the youngster.
Neil, who works for a wealth management company and is a former Farringdon School student, said: “They’ve been trying to understand what’s going on and give us a label, but we’re still looking for an answer.”
While hospitals, including Great Ormond Street, have carried out all the tests they can, there is no funding available for further research.
His family aims to raise up to £20,000 to fund a trip to America, where experts will look at what options they can offer.