Comedian Jason Manford hosted a special charity comedy gig in honour of teenager Stephen Sutton in Birmingham last night.
The inspirational teenager has raised more than £2.9 million for Teenage Cancer Trust and Mancunian funnyman Manford said he is hopeful fundraising will hit the £5 million mark.
The stand-up star had been to the hospital to see Stephen before heading to Players Bar on Broad Street in Birmingham before the gig, which sold out in four minutes.
He said: “There are people still hearing about his story now and going online and donating.
“I was just with him in the hospital and he has letters from India, Qatar, America, all over the world, it’s amazing.
“I think it could get to £5 million or more. There’s no reason for it not to.
“I said to myself that after this gig I would stop because people are probably bored of seeing me in the paper, but tomorrow I know I will still want to keep raising more money for this.”
He said the story of Stephen was life affirming, and that it was the 19-year-old’s attitude towards life that has seen it touch the hearts of thousands of people.
He said: “He is just amazing. Even speaking to him in hospital all he talks about is how to raise more money. He is a remarkable lad and the support he has had is unbelievable.
“He doesn’t say that he is dying, he says that he is living with cancer and that is why I think so many people have been taken with his story.”
Manford later called Stephen while he was onstage, and joked with the Burntwood youngster why he wasn’t following him on Twitter. Stephen’s response was ‘treat them mean, keep them keen’.
The 300-plus crowd packed into the bar whooped, cheered and applauded Stephen as he spoke to them on loudspeaker.
Stephen said he couldn’t name the best thing that he has done in the last three years while ticking off things on his bucket list before Manford introduced the five comedians, all of whom spoke of their admiration of Stephen. He was joined by Chris Ramsey, Steve Day, Craig Murray and The Raymond and Mr Timpkins Revue.
The former One Show host said he was looking at other ways of putting on a huge concert in the area to raise more money for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
He said: “I’ve been speaking to Teenage Cancer Trust to see what we can do around here, because all the big fundraisers seem to happen in London.
“We’ve talked about what the money is going towards but the important thing is to remember all the hard work that goes on by the staff on the TCT wards.
“You never know what they will do with the money, and to name something after him would be amazing.
“I asked him the other day what pose he wants to have when they build a statue of him as a joke the other day, and he said thumbs up.”
Kate Collins, director of fundraising for Teenage Cancer Trust, was also at the gig. She said: “Our main focus at the moment is to support Stephen and respond to all of his needs as well as we can.
“The money is going to accelerate a number of projects that we already have going on.
“The support has been phenomenal, we’ve never had anything like this before, so it is important we work out how best to use the money.
“We haven’t worked through anything specific as to how to honour the money that Stephen has raised. Our priority is to make sure that we respond well to anything that is coming in, thanks to the huge ground swell of support that we have never experienced before.”
Stephen was diagnosed with bowel cancer when he was 15. Despite the best efforts of surgeons, the aggressive cancer spread to different parts of his body and after further treatment and operations, doctors concluded it was incurable.
He created a bucket-list of 46 things he wanted to do before he died and said he wanted to raise £10,000 for charity.
His fundraising efforts were given a boost over the weekend as Chasetown Football Club donated the profits from its match day programme – which features Stephen on the front - from their game against Coalville Town.
The club has a long association with Stephen going back to when he started his bucket list last year when he arranged a charity match between the Scholars and West Bromwich Albion All Stars. That game raised some £4,000 which pushed Stephen through the £100,000 target.
By Jon Pritchard