Students and staff at a Sunderland school, which suffered the loss of a popular pupil and teaching assistant in a matter of weeks, united in their grief to pay their respects.
Kyle Alcock from South Hylton was just 17 when he died following a brave three-year fight with a brain tumour which he battled whilst studying for his GCSEs.
Throughout it all his close knit group of friends from St Aidan’s Catholic Academy in Ashbrooke paid regular visits, keeping his spirits up, playing computer games and eating McDonald’s with him.
Just weeks after the Black Cat fan’s death on February 22, the school suffered yet more tragedy when support assistant Sylvia Addison, 48, a mum-of-two, from Hollycarrside died from lung cancer.
In a twist of fate, Sylvia’s husband Phil, 48, had treated Kyle as part of his job as a radiographer at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.
Both families were united at a balloon release held at the school as part of its fundraising drive to boost funds for Sunderland Royal Hospital’s Cancer Patient Support Centre - an annual event which Sylvia co-founded at the school five years ago.
Kyle’s parents Steven and Jayne, 47, were joined at the event by his big brother Liam, 19, and his aunty Sandra Wilson.
Dad Steven, 51, said: “You’d never think he was ill the way he dealt with it all, and the school and his friends have been brilliant throughout, as well as the football club, he still always loved going to the matches.”
Sandra said: “He had a really close bond with his friends, they would come to the house and his eyes would light up and he’d get out of bed to play computer games and have a McDonalds. They did that even in his final weeks.”
Despite undergoing sessions of chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery to remove the tumour, Kyle passed away at home surrounded by his loving family.
Steven said: “Even when he had his brain operation he was up and playing with his phone hours later.”
Kyle was 14 when he was first diagnosed with a tumour after experiencing headaches, but he didn’t let it get him down and even achieved a B in English language in a GCSE exam he sat that year in the midst of treatment, a battling spirit which earned him a Young Achiever’s Award for Personal Achievement.
Bradley Allan, 17, who’d been friends with Kyle since their days at St Anne’s Primary in Hylton Road, said: “He was a really witty lad, even with what he went through he always stayed the same person. Even though he’d been poorly for years, he always kept going, so it was a shock when he died. He was a really strong character.”
Weeks after Kyle’s death, Sylvia lost her two-year fight with cancer at St Benedict’s Hospice in Ryhope on March 29. Mum to Charlie, 22, and Lucie, 19, she managed to see her daughter turn 19 just days before her death.
Husband Phil said: “Sylvia was really passionate about fundraising and even a few weeks after her diagnosis she took part in a fundraiser at Ashbrooke Sports Club which raised £4,000. She was ridiculously brave and always smiling.
“Although Sylvia’s diagnosis was terminal, she had only gone into the hospice for pain relief, so we didn’t expect her to die when she did. Being here today has been emotional but what’s filled me with most joy is seeing Kyle’s family again after treating him. It just goes to show what a small world it is and how many people are affected by cancer.”
Support assistant Bernadette Foreman who organised this year’s event, which over the years has raised £10,000, with teacher Donna Humble, said: “Sylvia had set up the Big Night In fundraiser five years ago after I returned from work following treatment for breast cancer, little did she realise she would face cancer too.
“This year, as well as the regular Big Night In, we wanted to do something special to honour Sylvia and Kyle which is why we held the eco-friendly balloon release. It’s an event tinged with sadness but the boys have been great. They held a non-uniform day which has raised £2,500. As well as messages for Kyle and Sylvia, they’ve written messages for other loved ones they have lost.”