The father of a young Liverpool supporter who caught the imagination of everybody he met has paid tribute to the club and its fans for their support.
Owen McVeigh was a regular at home and away games, but tragically passed away shortly after being diagnosed with leukaemia in December 2015.
Owen has since been commemorated in touching fashion by his fellow Reds. A flag bearing his name was created by fan group Spion Kop 1906 ahead of a minute's applause at Anfield to mark what would have been his 12th birthday in January 2016. The banner has been a fixture on the Kop at home games ever since.
In his honour, a T-shirt paying tribute to his memory is now on sale in Liverpool FC's three city stores and online, with all profits going to the Owen McVeigh Foundation.
The charity was set up by Owen's father, Mark, with its main aim being to enrich the lives of local children suffering with cancer and their families.
Liverpoolfc.com caught up with Mark to discuss the Foundation, the T-shirts, and the support his family and charity have received from Reds fans and the club...
First of all Mark, tell us about the Owen McVeigh Foundation and when you set it up…
We set it up near enough instantly after Owen passed away in 2015 and it just kicked on from there. We became a registered charity 15 months ago, so we were doing things even when we weren’t a registered charity and helping people.
Who do you look after in the local community and what do you hope to achieve with the Foundation?
Most of the kids come from Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, a couple are from Clatterbridge and on some occasions some are at home. Our remit is to create life experiences for kids who suffer from cancer and leukaemia so it’s quite specific to what we do. As we have grown from the charities we work with and help, we are able to do other things now, so it has gone into all different spectrums that we weren’t expecting but always never losing the fact that we want to improve life experiences. What we hope to do is continue to do it more. The more help we get and the more public awareness there is then the more we can help.
How pleased are you to have the club’s support on selling the T-shirt and how do you think it will benefit the Foundation?
Massively. On a level for public awareness about the Foundation. People see the flag at the ground but they don’t really know what it’s about, and this will explain what it is about on Owen’s level and the work we do with the Foundation. On a personal level, it’s the best thing that really could have happened for us. We are massive Reds, Owen was the biggest Red out the lot of us - he ate, slept and breathed Liverpool FC, it was everything to him. For me personally, this T-shirt is all about Owen and it’s really nice that we are able to help so many people with it.
How many T-shirts have been sold?
More than 17,000 all around the world. At first we just wanted 20 T-shirts for the family, but then on a Wednesday we put a post on Facebook saying 'if you want to help the Foundation, get one of these' and by the Friday we had to order 3,000.
On the first night we had 10 cars sat outside the house to deliver them, but what we didn’t expect was for people to put their kids in them and post [on social media]. Then other people saw them and wanted one and it just snowballed from there.
I know you would like to pay tribute to the Liverpool fans and their support for the Foundation…
They have [supported us] right from the word go. When they first made the flag and produced it at the Stoke game I wasn’t there. Me and Joanne were away because I just thought the emotion of it all would have been too much for us. I still think we did the right thing. We watched it all back and have seen it all. My mum was there that night and held the flag. It meant an awful lot. From there I’ve built up the courage to start holding it myself now and I have done every time since then.
The flag, which was created by fan group Spion Kop 1906, is a regular in the Kop at home games. That must make you and the family incredibly proud?
Yes, it’s something you’ve got to see every game. I don’t think people appreciate the size of it really and it’s only when you have got hold of it and standing there you see how big it is. It makes all of us massively proud and it has become an iconic image for us and also for the club. Every time you see the cameras on Sky Sports and they show the Kop, it’s there. It looks right, it looks fitting and it looks proper. That is important to us because matchday is Owen. From that we are able to use the image and create T-shirts. It’s our logo for the Foundation now.
We know little Owen was a massive Red - how proud are you to see the club and its fans keeping his memory in the public eye?
It’s massive. They took the flag to Wembley, the Europa League final, the big games. The club have helped us with that, the doors have been opened for us and they have made easy for us to take it in. At Wembley it was the only flag that had permission to be taken in. It was important for us to take it. We have our spot on the Kop to put it. The stewards are great lads and we appreciate it so much.