Celebrations and challenges help mark what would have been Sunderland schoolgirl Josie King's 16th birthday

The family of a schoolgirl have marked what would have been her 16th birthday with a celebration of her life as they face their first Christmas without her.

Saturday, 22nd December 2018, 8:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 8th January 2019, 3:49 pm
Josie King, from Thorney Close, loved Christmas time.

Josie King, from Thorney Close, was first diagnosed with bone cancer Ewing’s sarcoma in August 2016 after the Sandhill View Academy student discovered a lump on her hip.

She had been told in May she was in remission following treatment which included chemotherapy and surgery, but continued to feel unwell and died in July, with her funeral packed out with friends and family as they paid their respects to the boxing fan.

Josie King with her sister Jessica King and mother Donna Doneathy shortly after she was diagnosed with cancer.

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To mark her birthday, which would have been on Wednesday, mum Donna Doneathy, 42, dad John, sister Jess, 22, and brother Jack, 14, let off pink fireworks near Penshaw Monument and will also be buying a brick at the Stadium of Light in her name.

Her school also marked the day by mounting a physical challenge for students and staff to raise funds.

The school and pupils are planning to make a bench which will be dedicated to her in its flower garden and will create a literacy award in her honour.

Her name also will be printed on its leavers’ hoodie when the year 11 students leave this summer and Josie will be remembered at their prom.

Josie King's family let off fireworks near Penshaw Monument to mark her 16th birthday.

Ongoing fundraising will benefit charities including those which supported Josie’s family when she was ill, such as Clic Sargent.

Donna said: “We know Josie would have wanted all of this and she always wanted a brick at the stadium, so we decided that’s what we would get for her birthday.

“She always loved Christmas and she would wrap all the presents up for Jack.

“He’s gone back to boxing, but he’s struggled because he left when Josie became ill, but he says he knows he needs to make her proud.”

Funeral of Josie King

As part of Josie’s legacy, her family aims to change guidelines so that those who have completed their cancer treatment are given a full scan to check they are clear of the disease.

“She would be absolutely over the moon about that because she always said carry on, because she always said she was more worried about others,” Donna added.

“For her age, she knew so clearly what she wanted, she was always much stronger than me.”

Donna is hoping to raise enough funds to cover the cost of a plot where Josie’s ashes can be buried at the city’s crematorium, creating a memorial spot where her family and pals can lay flowers and take time to remember her.

Scores of people turned out to pay tribute to Josie King when her funeral was held in July.

Amy Wright, year 11 progress and achievement leader, has worked with Elle Wright, head of Phoenix House, Josie’s house at Sandhill, and family friend Eleanor Priest, who also works at the school, to remember Josie.

The rep fitness challenge, led by PE teacher Sarah Lamb, raised £352 and saw students and staff join in a 500 or 1,000 rep challenge where they completed press ups, sit ups and planks in tribute to Josie’s love of her training sessions when she boxed.

Amy said: “The children knew she was really poorly and we would go and visit her and check in with Donna daily, but her friends have found it really difficult.

“They still struggle to talk about it and don’t want to get upset in front of anybody, but it can be the best way to deal with it.

“Sometimes I think it’s because they think they’ll upset me and I’ve told them it’s good to remember Josie, to still think about her being part of the group, because the fact is she loved being here and loved to laugh.
“Let’s keep remembering her.”

Josie King pictured before her illness, in the gym at Lambton Street Youth Club.

Plains Farm Boxing Club has also created a bench in memory of Josie and plans to hold a fight night in her name in March to raise funds.

Sandhill View Academy student Josie King, who died ages 15.
Josie King with sister Jess and brother Jack.
Josie's sister Jess, Elle Wright, Josie's mum Donna Doneathy and Amy Wright as they are presented with flowers at Sandhill View Academy on what would have been Josie's 16th birthday.