Ipswich Town superfan Poppy Mason says it will be a special feeling to follow in her late brother’s footsteps and lead out her heroes at Portman Road.
The 15-year-old will meet the players prior to kick-off in tomorrow’s Championship clash against West Bromwich Albion.
She will also be seen on television as the game is being screened live on Sky TV.
Poppy received sibling support and counselling from East Anglia’s Children’s Hospices (EACH) as brother George died in May 2004.
He was five and a half and, just a few months before, in January 2004, George had been Town’s mascot for a thrilling 6-4 victory against Crewe Alexandra.
EACH is the dedicated charity partner for tomorrow’s game.
There will be a bucket collection before the match, as well as information and messages about the charity’s work being displayed in the programme, on the giant scoreboard and electronic advertising hoardings.
Poppy said: “I love watching Ipswich. It’s something I really enjoy and a group of us, including my dad, have season tickets in the Sir Alf Ramsey Stand.
“We go to away games, too, and went to Preston last Saturday.
“Being asked to lead the teams out is very exciting and I can’t wait to meet the players – especially my favourite, Sam Morsy.
“It’s a real honour and going to be a very special feeling, given that my brother, George, was mascot just before he died, in January 2004.
“Although I wasn’t born, I’ve seen lots of photos and my parents still have the programme and tickets from the game.
“It’ll be a very special feeling following in his footsteps and leading the players out tomorrow.”
Ironically, one of Poppy’s twin brothers, Alfie, was also an Ipswich mascot, for a game against Hull City in 2011.
George was originally diagnosed with cerebral palsy but it was later thought he had a degenerative disease called Mitochondrial Depletion Syndrome.
While undergoing tests at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, his condition deteriorated and he had to be transferred to Ipswich’s children’s hospice, in Walker Close (EACH’s former Suffolk base, prior to The Treehouse opening in 2011).
He received end of life care and died peacefully three days later, in the early hours of 27th May 2004.
Mum Sarah said: “The staff gave us family time and space, but support when required, and the following day all our families came to say their goodbyes.
“George remained at the hospice until his funeral on 8th June.
“We were supported by all the staff, who also guided us with funeral arrangements as we were so young and didn’t know where to begin.
“Our twins, Alfie and Max, who were three at the time, received months of support, as did other family members.
“Poppy then started having counselling at The Treehouse in 2022 – ironically from the same counsellor who, all those years before, had worked with Alfie and Max.
“We’re forever grateful for all the love and endless support we’ve received from EACH.”
EACH aims to support everyone who may be significantly affected by a child’s death, including siblings, grandparents and other family members.
It has a team of experienced wellbeing professionals and support can be provided on a one-to-one basis or with other family members, in the family home, the community or at one of its hospices.
EACH also runs a number of bereavement support groups, which provide the opportunity to meet other families, share stories, access resources and create keepsakes.
It also organises regular sibling groups, to give brothers and sisters an opportunity to make friends and have fun, and annual memory days, giving bereaved family members the opportunity to come together in memory of their child.
For more information, head here.