Today we are celebrating the life of Damary Dawkins, a courageous young man who sadly lost his battle with leukaemia at the age of just 13.
Damary was a member of our Elite Player Development Centre in Bromley, where he played from the age of seven and was a key player in the squad, always encouraging his team mates and forever with a smile on his face.
His coach at the Foundation, Pat Gordon, describes Damary as a dedicated young player who supported his coaches and team mates alike: “Damary was a coach’s dream, he always bounced into training with a smile on his face. He loved showing you his skills and tricks he’d been working on, which showed how dedicated and committed he was to improving as a player.
“Damary’s laugh was so infectious that he had both players and coaches in stiches often. He always made new players feel welcome and led by example with his attitude and behaviour.
“He always made time to help support others, which helped both coaches and teammates at the club. Damary loved Crystal Palace and we loved him.”
Damary had been fighting Acute Lymphoblastic Leukaemia and after three years of intensive chemotherapy, he required a stem cell transplant to stay alive.
Despite a match being found and Damary undergoing the transplant, he sadly passed away on Sunday 17 March - six weeks after his 13th birthday.
Damary’s father, Tony, was by his son’s side constantly: “No matter how many years go by, I know I will never forget or get over it. Damary was like my second skin, we went everywhere together and did everything together.
“I'm so proud to have a son like him, God could not have given me a better son.”
Currently 69 per cent of patients who require a stem cell transplant can find a match from a stranger, but this drops to just 20 per cent for those from a black, Asian or ethnic minority background.
Tony and the family are keen to encourage as many people as possible to join the stem cell registry and help someone suffering from blood cancer: www.dkms.org.uk/en/register-now - they were also supported by the African Caribbean Leukaemia Trust (ACLT).
A Go Fund Me page has been set up to support the family at this difficult time: www.gofundme.com/damary-dawkins-campaign
Further tributes to Damary can be found in today's matchday programme from manager, Roy Hodgson, and chairman, Steve Parish.