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Comic Jason Manford boosts funds for tragic Blake’s funeral

By Marion Brennan | Dudley | News | Published:

Thousands of pounds have been donated to pay for the funeral costs of a much-loved teenager who died after a swimming tragedy whilst on holiday.

Comic Jason Manford has helped the fundraising campaign for Blake Ward

Following the intervention of comedian Jason Manford, the online fundraiser for 16-year-old Blake Ward, from Dudley, has reached over £12,000, more than double its original target.

The comic, who heads a group of anonymous donors dubbed the Charity Ninjas, shared the story of the Hillcrest School and Community College student’s death on his Facebook page

Before he got involved, the total on the GoFundMe page was at £1,860. Overnight it shot up to more than £5,200.

Money has continued to flood in since, with one of the biggest donations coming from the year 11 pupil’s former school friends who organised a charity football match at The Portway in Oldbury.

Scores of people attended the game – including one of Blake’s teachers, who interrupted a family holiday to be there.

The match realised £943 through a bucket collection, tombola and cake sale.

Family friend Rebecca Ray, of Coseley, said Blake’s parents were overwhelmed by the response.

“The number of people who turned up surprised even them,” said Mrs Ray, “I don’t think they realised how popular Blake was.

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“They’ve been really touched by all the tributes. It’s heartwarming how generous people have been.”

The GoFundMe page was set up by the teenager’s girlfriend Stephanie Ray and his sister Libbie Sullivan with the aim of raising £5,000 for his funeral.

The excess cash will be donated to the air ambulance and sea rescue charities. His family and friends gathered at Green Park, Kates Hill, Dudley, where Blake used to play football, on Wednesday for a balloon release in celebration of his life.

Paying tribute to him this week, Hillcrest School principal April Garratt said: “Blake was a wonderful young man, his teachers would say of him that he was bright, funny and kind hearted. It is such a tragedy when a young life is taken especially in these circumstances.” She said that staff would be on hand to support pupils on August 23 when they turned up to collect their GCSE results.

“This is always a time of excitement and anticipation but will be a time of great sadness as Blake should have been collecting his own GCSE results,” said Ms Garratt. Responding to the money raised by the football match, organised by Dylan Mall Simpson, one of Blake’s best friends, Stephanie Ray said: “I’m just speechless, I can’t thank you all enough. It’s brought me to tears to see so many people come and watch the match.”

The teenager, who had moved to live in Wolverhampton six months ago, died in hospital on Saturday, four days after being rescued from the sea.

Marion Brennan

By Marion Brennan
@Marion_EStar

News and features reporter, specialising in human interest and local history stories.

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