TEAM George has smashed its target thanks to the generosity of Sunderland fans.
George Johnson’s family launched their campaign with a goal of raising £20,000 to send the four-year-old to America, in the hope doctors can diagnose his illness.
Now they are celebrating after more than £30,000 was raised, with a match played at the Academy of Light, followed by a dinner at the Stadium of Light helping to top off the appeal.
George has had more than 70 operations to help him deal with the mystery condition, which means he cannot eat, drink or swallow.
The visit to the US will see medics review the treatment and tests he has already had at hospitals, including Great Ormond Street in London, as well as search for a diagnosis.
George’s dad Neil, 33, originally from Farringdon, now lives with wife Emma, George and their daughter Ava, five, in the Wirral, where Emma is from.
They have been given a huge amount of support from people on Wearside and Sunderland fans, who have got behind their fellow Black Cat supporter, who has been team mascot three times, including the team’s home match against Hull City on Saturday.
Emma, 32, a full-time carer for George, said: “It’s been overwhelming because of the support we have got from Ellis Short, the football club, Sunderland people has been unbelievable.
“People have been following George’s journey and we’ve been overcome by messages from members of the public.
“People are determined to help George get better and it’s been really touching, especially as so many people are complete strangers, but have been following Team George.”
She added Sunday’s match had been a great opportunity for both sides of George’s family, as well as their friends and supporters, to come together to back the cause.
Kevin Ball led the Sunderland home side while Jimmy Montgomery manage the visitors Everton. The final score was 3-3.
The gala night included an auction of prizes, including the match ball from Sunderland’s derby win against Newcastle at St James’s Park, which went for £1,000, as well as a question and answer session with Kevin.
The club’s commercial director Gary Hutchinson, a close friend of Neil’s, said: “George has touched the hearts of everyone here at the club and it was fantastic to see so much support for what is a very worthwhile cause.
“Initially they set a target of £20,000 to be raised from the events, but thanks to the generous donations of guests on the day, we have been able to top the £30,000 mark, which is amazing.”