A charity squash tournament will take place this weekend in memory of a much-missed mentor.
Sunderland man Jason Sweeney helped to turn his life around after was introduced to the sport when he was 17 by Derek Brown, a family friend from Washington.
Jason says playing the game gave him a focus for his energy at a time when he was making what he knows now to be poor decisions.
Derek, who died from a very rare and aggressive throat cancer in 2012, became an important figure in Jason’s life and he credits him for helping set him on ‘the right path’.
Jason, who is married with a son a daughter, explains: “When I was a teenager, I was becoming a bit of a tearaway and I might have continued down that road if Derek hadn’t stepped in.
“He basically said to me, you’ll be too tired to cause trouble after you’ve played squash, and he was right. I found I really enjoyed the game and it became a passion.
“I looked up to Derek like he was an older brother.
"He was a great man with a wicked sense of humour who took me under his wing. He’s a huge miss.”
Derek, who was aged 55 when he died, was married with a son and received treatment at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care, Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.
In his memory, and to raise funds for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, Jason and his friend John Ord, from Wardley, have organised a squash tournament at the Primrose Community Centre in Jarrow where he used to play.
Jason adds: “This is the fourth year of the Derek Brown Handicap and we’re so pleased with the way it’s grown.
“We’ll have 32 entrants this year, including the top North East players, and it’s a fantastic competition raising money for a very important cause.
"Derek would have absolutely loved it.
“I’d recommend squash to anyone.
"It’s a great sport which has made a huge difference in my life.”
The Derek Brown Handicap has raised over £2,000 for the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation in the last three years and is sponsored by Kidd and Spoor Solicitors Ltd, Diamond Business Group, S & K Services and Sabre Sports.
Sir Bobby Robson launched his Foundation in 2008 to help find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer.
The work funded directly benefits cancer patients in the North East and Cumbria and plays a significant role in the international fight against the disease - funding cutting-edge cancer treatment and innovative cancer support services, including the clinical trials of new drugs at the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trials Research Centre.
Liz Luff, from the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation, says: “Derek sounds like a special man who made a great difference to Jason’s life.
“We’re very grateful to Jason, John and all the entrants in the Derek Brown Handicap for supporting for our work.
"The money raised will help us continue to find better ways to detect and treat cancer.”
The tournament begins today from 4pm at Primrose Community Centre, Lambton Terrace, Jarrow.
It will continue from 11am to 3pm tomorrow as well as 6pm to 8pm.
On Sunday play will take place from 1pm to 2pm before the final begins at 7pm.