Shape Of You Ed Sheeran
29 May 2014, 16:49
A fund set up Staffordshire teenager Stephen Sutton, who lost his battle with cancer has hit £4 million on the day mourners are gathering to celebrate his life.
Stephen Sutton originally started the fundraising drive on his justgiving.com webpage, but the donations have continued to pour in from people touched by his example since the 19-year-old succumbed to multiple tumours on May 14.
A two-day vigil begins later today at Lichfield Cathedral, Staffordshire, marking the young man's life.
Cancer trust chief executive Siobhan Dunn said the money was hugely welcome but it was difficult to over-state the importance of his work in raising awareness about the disease in young people.
During the vigil, well-wishers will be able to pay their respects and say a final goodbye to the teenager, whose dignity and zest for life in the face of terminal cancer attracted attention across the world and became a global phenomenon.
Ms Dunn said: "I think what's really important is Stephen will never be forgotten because he, like every young person who is diagnosed with cancer, lives on in the work that we do, and they're a very important part of our work.
"Stephen's an extraordinary young man who has had the most incredible impact on the lives of so many young people with cancer.''
She added: "I think it's really important there's a public celebration of Stephen's life, and I think that's exactly what he would have wanted.
"He was looking for us to put the fun into his funeral so hopefully we're going to do that.
"Lichfield Cathedral is such a beautiful space and it's an opportunity for people especially from the local community who have been so incredibly supportive towards Stephen and all his family to come along and pay their respects and to celebrate his life.''
Inside the cathedral, Stephen's smiling face can be seen on numerous pictures and a team of volunteers from the flowers guild have dressed the stone dais where his coffin will lie in bright yellow and white blooms.
Ms Dunn said it was right "to celebrate his life'', and Stephen would not have wanted it any other way.
"It's just a wonderful opportunity and the family are delighted to be able to give people the opportunity of coming together just to celebrate his life,'' she added.
Stephen's mother Jane Sutton yesterday called for people not to wear black to the vigil, and to "do something to make others happy''.
The young man, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer aged 15, spent the rest of his short life raising awareness about the disease in young people, and had embarked on a bucket list.
Before his death, he said: "I don't see the point in measuring life in terms of time anymore.
"I'd rather measure life in terms of making a difference.''
Ms Dunn said Stephen's positive outlook had been as important as the money he had raised.
"Often like Stephen young people deal with their cancer illness with great humour and it's very important to have a positive mental attitude,'' she said.
"It's something Teenage Cancer Trust really focuses on in terms of the services and support that we provide.
"We build units for people to come together and get support from other young people in an environment that's as non-clinical as possible - and young people supporting other young people is absolutely critical, it's a really important part of our work.''
She added Stephen's family had been overwhelmed by the public's "outpouring of love and goodwill''.
The vigil ends today at midnight, before the cathedral's doors reopen from 7am tomorrow.
At 11am on Friday, there is a Thumbs Up For Stephen event - which is being publicised with the social media hashtag #ThumbsupforStephen, with people urged by Stephen's family to carry out a random act of kindness.
At 3.45pm, Stephen's coffin will exit the Close and leave Lichfield for a private family funeral.
Stephen's campaign to raise awareness and money for charity attracted huge support, earning praise from celebrities like Russell Brand, Simon Cowell, Ricky Gervais and Jason Manford.
Prime Minister David Cameron went to meet Stephen while in hospital, and following his death on May 14, said: "I'm deeply saddened to hear that Stephen Sutton has died.
David Cameron - Stephen Sutton
"His spirit, bravery and fund-raising for cancer research were all an inspiration.''
The Stephen's Story Facebook site, where the teenager gave regular updates on his work, now has 1.2 million likes.
It is estimated that up to 40,000 people may attend the vigil.