Sunderland fans stage match to help ill boy

EVERYDAY BATTLE: George Johnson.
EVERYDAY BATTLE: George Johnson.
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A BOY whose condition has baffled medics could be given life-changing treatment with the help of football fans.

 Four-year-old George Johnson has already had 75 operations to help him battle a condition which 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 which could see the Sunderland fan travel to the US to see a special consultant.

To boost the fund, SAFC will host a charity game at the Academy of Light on Sunday, February 9, followed by a gala dinner.

And today George will be the star mascot at Sunderland’s game at Everton after spending his first ever Christmas Day at home.

George’s dad Neil, 33, from Farringdon, said: “He’s on a machine 16 hours a day to survive.

“We’ve spent a large part of the last three years now trying to find out what’s wrong with him,and my wife’s had to give up her job to become a full-time carer for George, but we’ve not got a diagnosis.

“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, no funding is available for further research. His family aim to raise up to £20,000 to fund a trip to America, where experts will look at what options they can offer.

Despite all the pain and upset of his problems, George’s dad says he is just like any four year old.

Neil, who works for a wealth management company and is a former Farringdon School student, added: “Mentally, there’s no problem whatsoever, he’s a real little character, always smiling, happy and fights with his sister.”

George’s most recent operation was to have all his teeth removed because of the damage caused by acid reflux.

His family say the help of loved ones is helping them through and hope Black Cat fans will join them to back the charity game, which is being put on with the help of Gary Hutchinson, SAFC’s commercial director.

“I’ve known him for about 15 years and he’s been a very close friend for a long time and he asked how he could help,” added Neil, who now lives in Wallasey in the Wirral with wife Emma, 32, and their daughter Ava, five.

“We’ve got lots of friends and family who want to climb mountains and would run through brick walls if necessary.”

The charity match will see supporters pull on either Sunderland or Everton strips – Emma’s side – with each player to keep their kit as part of the fund-raiser, with places £100 per person. Those who will be among the match crowd will be Neil’s mum Val, who lives in Springwell, and dad Ian, who is from Pennywell.

Mr Hutchinson said: “Naturally the club is delighted to support such a worthwhile cause and we hope to raise as much money as possible for Team George who do such a wonderful job in helping children and families.”

Tickets for spectators are £5 and also offers priority on tickets for the dinner that evening at the Stadium of Light, which and includes a drinks reception, a three-course meal with coffee and entertainment from Kevin Ball and a comedian.

Tickets are £50 per person with sponsorship packages at £1,000 per table for 10 guests.

For more information, email Neil at, or to book tickets for the match visit the Stadium of Light ticket office or call 0871 911 1973.

For tickets to the gala dinner, call 0871 911 1555 or email conf&