THIS brave Wearside family are set to be acclaimed by more than 40,000 football fans this weekend.
That’s because the Pattons will be among other mums, dads and children from around the area who have transformed their lives thanks to the power of sport.
The family, from Easington Lane, have battled illness for years and continue to do so each and every day.
Mum Liz suffers from long-term depression, with her husband John, 45, the victim of a serious migraine condition which often means he has to be treated in hospital.
As well as that, the couple’s son Ewan, nine, has deadly lung disease obliterative bronchiolitis, for which he needs constant care.
“We do have a tough life, but we just get on with things as best we can,” said Liz, 45, who is also mum to Adam, seven, and Leeds University student Dale, 24, who suffered from epilepsy when he was younger. “I think to myself that there a lot of people who are in a worse predicament than us, so we have to keep positive.”
Despite the ordeal the family face on a daily basis, they have managed to improve themselves thanks to help from Sunderland AFC’s Foundation of Light.
The Pattons enrolled on the organisation’s Family Learning Through Football Fitness course, which has since given them the chance to spend quality time together in which they get healthier.
As part of the 10-week programme, which uses football skills and training to help families get fitter, the family started to enjoy each others’s company once more.
The Pattons signed up through Ewan’s school, Hetton Lyons Primary.
“The trainer helped us to repair things and I don’t think I realised how much good he was doing at first,” said Liz.
“It’s had a real positive impact on the family.
“Before, we were so busy trying to provide a safe, happy healthy life for our family that we forgot about each other.
“The course helped us see that and gave us the encouragement and the tools we needed to make a fresh start.”
The group is now preparing to take to the field as part of a half-time parade at the Black Cats’ game against Premier League champions Manchester United tomorrow, and as big Sunderland supporters they are hoping to be a lucky charm for their team.
The game has been designated Foundation Day to honour the work that the charity does with tens of thousands of people each year.
“I’m so excited for the game and so are the boys,” said Liz.
“They can’t wait.”