Published on 03 December 2021
Gemma Lowery, 38, was granted an Honorary Fellowship of the University of Sunderland, just four weeks after the birth of her newborn daughter, Gracie-Mae.
Gemma attended the special ceremony at the Stadium of Light, along with husband Carl, 38, and little Gracie-Mae. She joined hundreds of other students celebrating their graduations from the University. At just four-weeks old, it’s highly possible that Gemma Lowery’s newborn daughter is the youngest ever audience member to attend the graduation ceremonies.
Gemma, from Country Durham, said: “It was actually 10 years ago that I graduated from the University at the Stadium. Like Gracie-Mae, Bradley was just a few weeks old at the time but he was with me for the day.”
Of course, no one knew how Bradley’s short life would go on to have such a long-term impact on so many people.
The little Sunderland AFC supporter, who, at 18-months old was diagnosed with a rare form of childhood cancer, Neuroblastoma, inspired a nation through his bravery, as well as forming a close-knit bond with England footballer Jermain Defoe during that time. Following his death in July 2017 aged just six, Gemma was determined to turn her tragedy into something positive, and she went on to form the Bradley Lowery Foundation.
The mum, who graduated from the University in 2011 with a BSc in Health and Social Care, established the charity with the goal of using donations to support families who were fundraising for treatment or equipment not available on the NHS. The Foundation has gone from strength to strength, with the dedicated team of seven supporting, caring for, and changing the lives of families across the UK.
It has also successfully campaigned for new drugs to be made available on the NHS, set up a dedicated support line for the families of poorly children and will soon start work on a holiday home in Scarborough.
Gemma said: “Ten years ago, when I was studying here, I was managing a job, being mum to Kieran, who is now 19, and being pregnant with Bradley – it was a huge juggling act.”
Professor Jon Timmis, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Commercial) at the University, said: “Gemma has shown us that through even the darkest of times, the most devastating of circumstances, there is always light to be found, always hope to cling to, and always a purpose for our lives.
“We recognise her today for her outstanding efforts in establishing and growing the Bradley Lowery Foundation.”