Sunderland fans’ floral tribute to MH17 crash victims delivered to St James’ Park

Originally published on SportsByte on July 22nd 2014.

The fundraising page set up by a Sunderland fan in tribute to John Alder and Liam Sweeney has now raised £29,000 – and flowers have now been delivered to St James’ Park.

Newcastle United supporters John, 63, and Liam, 28, were among the passengers of the tragic MH17 flight, as they were travelling to New Zealand to watch the Magpies’ pre-season tour.

Gary Ferguson, 48, set up the page on Friday night (July 18) in a bid to raise £100 for a floral tribute and, on Tuesday (July 22), confirmed to donors that flowers costing £200 had been delivered and that the rest of the cash would be split between the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and the Marie Curie Hospice in Newcastle.

Speaking to SportsByte, dad-of-three and Sunderland season ticket holder Gary explained that he had had help setting up the page from users on the Sunderland Ready To Go messageboard, and that he had initially asked people to only donate £5 – but, “once it went viral, that kind of got lost in translation”.

“I’m not like this, honestly. I’ve never done anything like this in my life.

“I just rang a mate to see if we could get some flowers sort a tribute to these lads. I asked him how much it would be and he said around £150, so I went to the messageboard and asked if anyone would be interested in donating. Within a minute of me posting that, six or seven people said they were in.”

Gary added of the RTG messageboard: “It’s a bold thing that we’ve done here and we’re all very proud of it.

“It’s gone worldwide, with donations coming in from all over the place.

“I’m still getting emails from people from other clubs [outside of Newcastle and Sunderland] asking if they can still donate. And of course they can.

“It’s the amount of people that have put in that gets me every time.”

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