Tributes to our ‘Little Miss Courage’ as Sunderland fundraiser dies aged 30

Dave Watson and Lorraine preparing for one of their many Great North Runs together
Dave Watson and Lorraine preparing for one of their many Great North Runs together
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Tributes have been paid to a 30-year-old whose brave battle with health problems saw her dubbed “Little Miss Courage.”

Lorraine Watson died suddenly at Sunderland Royal Hospital after a chest infection led to the onset of pneumonia. It was the final fight for the passionate fundraiser and volunteer who’d faced a lifetime of illness after being born with spina bifida.

Dave and Lorraine

Dave and Lorraine

Though she relied on a wheelchair to get about, Lorraine, a former Barbara Priestman pupil, never let it get in her way of helping others.

Along with her dad Dave, who would push her around the course, she took part in 18 Great North Runs and junior runs, raising £15,000 for charity over the years. The daughter and dad team only hung up their trainers when Dave became too old to take part.

As well as volunteering as a teaching assistant at Ribbon Academy, Murton, Lorraine was a familiar face at Dalton Park where she would host collections.

Her family say they are devastated by her death, but proud to have known her.

Whenever she was ill, she would always say to me ‘onwards and upwards, dad’

Dave Watson, speaking in tribute to daughter Lorraine

Dave, 60, said: “She battled on despite everything and helped people all her life. She was so bubbly and funny and was great with people of all ages.

“Whenever she was ill she would always say to me ‘onwards and upwards, dad.’”

The support worker for people with autism, who lives in Winds Lonnen, Murton, added: “She did her first fundraising when she was five and was very well-known for it, she just loved to help people.

“When the vicar came to the house after she died, he said in his 22 years in Murton he’d never seen so many cards and flowers.”

Lorraine and family friend Jenny

Lorraine and family friend Jenny

Among those to benefit from Lorraine’s good will were Grace House, the Chin Up Appeal and Sunderland Royal Hospital’s neo-natal unit. Hospitals were a cause close to the fundraiser’s heart after spending three decades in and out of them.

When she was ten she underwent a particularly tough time when she spent three months in intensive care at Newcastle General after she developed a blockage in a shunt used to drain fluid from her brain.

Doctors feared she may never recover, but she fought for life and became known as Little Miss Courage.

Speaking about her death, Dave said: “She’d had a chest infection and had been on antibiotics from the GP, but she was getting worse. We took her to hospital on the Sunday and the infection led to pneumonia and then organ failure. She passed away on the Tuesday. They say her spina bifida was a secondary cause.”

Lorraine at brother Garry's wedding to Gemma

Lorraine at brother Garry's wedding to Gemma

Despite it all, her family say she always wore a smile.

Dave, who is married to Jean, 56, said: “She lived at home with us all her life. She and her mum were soul mates and had only spent four days apart since she was born. They loved doing things like going to concerts together.”

As well as fundraising, Lorraine was passionate about helping young people and had volunteered at Ribbon Academy for the past five years.

She also leaves brother Garry, 35, sister-in-law Gemma and niece Lucy, two, with whom Lorraine was particularly close.

Lorraine’s funeral will take place at Holy Trinity Church, Murton, at 11.45am on Monday. All are welcome to attend. Lorraine’s family has asked that people wear bright colours to reflect her personality. Donations in her name can be made to the Ribbon Academy.

Lorraine and her beloved niece Lucy

Lorraine and her beloved niece Lucy