A 10-year-old Lionesses superfan has received support and a pair of signed boots from her heroes after she raised more than £14,500 for a young boy with cancer by selling England-inspired creations from her sewing machine.
After getting a sewing machine for Christmas last year, Leah Walton has been selling World Cup-themed homemade scrunchies and keyrings to raise money for four-year-old Jude Mellon-Jameson – who was diagnosed with high-risk neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive childhood cancer.
Her fundraising efforts have caught the attention of Lionesses Lucy Bronze and Ellie Roebuck, who met with her and gave her signed shirts, boots and a ball to keep and auction off, and former Lioness Jill Scott, who filmed herself praising the scrunchies.
Dad Craig Walton, 50, contacted England player Bronze’s agent while on holiday in Barcelona in May to see if his enterprising 10-year-old could meet the football star while the footballer was training in the city.
He told the PA news agency: “The idea was just to ask Lucy if she could just come and spend 10 minutes with us after training and she surprised Leah, tapped her on the shoulder, and then took her inside this Barcelona training ground and we spent an hour and a half with her on a tour of the training ground.”
Leah told PA that her football hero was “really, really kind” and gave her signed football boots to keep and a football to auction off.
Mr Walton explained the boots were worn by Bronze at a recent match in April, saying: “The boots are the ones she wore for the final (of the Women’s Finalissima) against Brazil in Wembley, when England won on penalties.”
Leah was also given two shirts signed by Lioness Ellie Roebuck.
Leah said: “She gave us this shirt to donate, which raised £300, and she gave me a shirt for myself to keep and now it’s up in my bedroom on my wall.”
Mr Walton added: “Her mum gave us the shirts and we pulled Ellie to one side at a game where she wasn’t playing and told her all about (the fundraising) personally as well.”
Leah said she asked for a sewing machine for Christmas “because I wanted to make clothes for dolls” before deciding to use her creative abilities to make keyrings and sell them in ScrapDragon, a creative reuse centre in Pitsmoor, Sheffield.
Mr Walton explained: “She wanted a sewing machine for Christmas and then was practising, making little bits like scrunchies, bookmarks, keyrings, cushions and all sorts, and then basically came across some St George’s flag material and thought, ‘I know, we’ll do scrunchies, keyrings, sell them for £1 a piece and we’ll give it to Jude’.”
Leah has raised £420 by selling the scrunchies, which can be partly attributed to grabbing the attention of a family member of former Lioness Jill Scott, resulting in the famous player filming a video message earlier this month for Leah while holding one of her scrunchies.
In the video, Jill Scott says: “I love your scrunchies. I’ve heard that you’re really working hard to raise money for charity so keep up the good work.
“Thanks for mine. I’ll be wearing mine at the World Cup. Hopefully it’ll bring the Lionesses some luck.”
Mr Walton said: “Hopefully she’ll take it with her because we’re watching with eagle eyes now.
“Whether or not she will or not, we don’t know, but it sold a lot more scrunchies with that as an advert, with Jill Scott having one of our scrunchies in her hand.”
Mum Charlotte Walton, 37, said her daughter was “amazing”, adding: “She comes up with the daft ideas and we just go along with it.”
Leah said the “inspirational” and “heroic” Lionesses prompted her to start playing for the Sheffield Wednesday’s under-11s team and now the young footballer is “really excited” about the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
She said: “Bring another trophy home, Lionesses.”
Published: by Radio NewsHub