Photo of tragic North West 200 rider Malachi Mitchell-Thomas taken just 48 hours before death in race
Family of sick tot speak of kind-hearted rider happy to support cause
The family of a 10-month-old baby living with a rare spinal condition have spoken of how tragic racer Malachi Mitchell-Thomas was a "kind-hearted young man" who had helped them.
Just 48 hours before he died at the North West 200 road races, Malachi happily posed with 'Big Ted', the mascot for Charlie Ferris, who has infantile scoliosis.
The community in Ballinderry, Co Tyrone, has been supporting a campaign to raise awareness and funds for the youngster so he can travel to America for specialised medical treatment.
Last Thursday after the 20-year-old racer was told about Charlie, he agreed to have his picture taken with Ted to boost the campaign.
Charlie's mum Donna (35) said the news that Malachi had died came as a "complete shock".
"I think it just shows what kind of lovely, kind young man he was to offer to help raise awareness for Charlie," she said.
"He was just happy to hold Big Ted.
"When I heard he had died, and realised who it was, I was just so shocked.
"It was devastating news as he was obviously such a lovely man - and only 20 years old."
Amy Clarke, a friend of the family who arranged the photograph, said the rising star of road racing was loved by everyone who met him.
"Malachi knew all about Charlie and just wanted to help," she said.
"He was a very loveable character and everybody who met him just loved him.
"He was a very kind person and that picture shows that.
"That was the type of man he was, he would help anyone.
"It was no problem at all for him to have his picture with Ted.
"We were just so grateful to him. It is such a huge loss."
Little Charlie was diagnosed with infantile scoliosis in February.
Donna and her husband Jody were told that if left untreated it could lead to severe twisting of the spine, respiratory problems and even decreased life expectancy.
They have dedicated themselves to raising enough money to travel to the Shriner's Hospital in Philadelphia regularly for specialised treatment for their son.
On April 3 Jody, Donna and their four children flew to the US city for the first time.
A few days later Charlie was fitted with a Mehta cast, which has been specially designed to correct the curvature in his spine. "It was just a very emotional time, going for the first time," she said.
Luckily Jody has an aunt who lives in Philadelphia, who helped the family.
"As soon as we arrived at the hospital I just felt a huge sense of relief as these were people specialised in treating scoliosis," she said.
The parents now face returning every eight weeks to America.
They said they have been humbled by the ongoing support from people helping to raise funds for the family.
"We are just dedicated to the journey to help Charlie.
"We don't know how long it will go on for, and we have just been overwhelmed by the support everybody has given us."