Fundraiser puts the fun in funeral
The mother of an inspirational teenage cancer victim who raised almost £4 million for charity has called on well-wishers to "do something to make others happy" in his memory.
A two-day vigil for 19-year-old Stephen Sutton who succumbed to multiple tumours earlier this month is due to start tomorrow.
Mr Sutton's bravery in facing his terminal illness while urging people to enjoy life has now become a global phenomenon reaching more than five million people worldwide, according to one social media website.
His mother Jane Sutton said: "The continued love and support for Stephen is wonderful and a great comfort."
She has called on people at 11am on Friday to "do something that makes you and others happy in Stephen's memory".
The timing will coincide with a Thumbs Up For Stephen event - which is being publicised with the social media hashtag #ThumbsupforStephen, and which has been organised while the vigil at Lichfield Cathedral in Staffordshire is under way.
The vigil starts at 7pm on Thursday, when people are welcome to light a candle, lay flowers, reflect by the coffin and sign a book of condolence in the young campaigner's honour.
Mrs Sutton added: "I want people to have the chance to come and pay their last respects to Stephen.
"It is important that the vigil at Lichfield Cathedral has an opening and a public farewell, so I invite people especially to come and be part of these two moments and remember Stephen.
"Stephen wanted to put the fun in funeral, so don't feel you need to wear black. It's a celebration of his life and achievements."
She added: "If you can't make it, remember to take a moment at 11am on Friday morning to give a Thumbs up for Stephen.
"This could be via Thunderclap.it, #ThumbsupforStephen, or you could give the thumbs up to a stranger, have a cup of tea and a slice of cake, think a positive thought, clap, cheer, or even perform a random act a kindness.
"Do something that makes you and others happy in Stephen's memory."
At 6pm tomorrow, Mr Sutton's coffin will leave his home in Burntwood, Staffordshire, by horse-drawn carriage, entering Lichfield by The Bowling Green, passing along The Friary, Swan Road and Bird Street before entering The Close. The coffin will be taken into the cathedral at 7pm and laid in a place of honour.
There is to be a short opening ceremony at the cathedral at 7pm and the cathedral will remain open until midnight for people to pay their respects.
Doors reopen at 7am on Friday, before a public farewell ceremony at 3pm.
At 3.45pm on Friday, Mr Sutton's coffin will exit The Close and leave Lichfield for a private family funeral.
Over the past few days people touched by Mr Sutton's memory have tied hundreds of yellow ribbons up around his home town.
Mr Sutton's campaign to raise awareness and money for the Teenage Cancer Trust attracted huge support, earning praise from celebrities like Russell Brand, Simon Cowell, Ricky Gervais and Jason Manford.
Prime Minister David Cameron met Mr Sutton while in hospital, and following his death on May 14, said: "I can hardly think of anyone I've met with such a zest for life, and such a belief that you can get things done, and who wanted to live every minute.
"He was absolutely inspiring."
Before dying, Mr Sutton - who was working his way through a bucket list - said: "I don't see the point in measuring life in terms of time any more.
"I'd rather measure life in terms of making a difference."
The social media campaign website Thunderclap.it has rated the Stephen's Story drive as having a total global reach across the internet of 5.11 million people.
The Stephen's Story Facebook site, where the teenager gave regular updates on his work and latterly his deteriorating health, now has 1.2 million likes.
Meanwhile, the total amount raised on Mr Sutton's justgiving.com fund-raising page now stands at £3.96 million - the single largest ever amount raised for the Teenage Cancer Trust.
Staffordshire County Council's leader Philip Atkins said the vigil would be an "unprecedented event" and showed how Mr Sutton's campaign had triumphed in bringing people together.
He said: "Stephen Sutton's story is truly an inspirational one and people will undoubtedly be turning out in their thousands to pay their respects to Stephen and commemorate his spirit, courage and amazing achievements in his short life."
It is estimated that up to 40,000 people will turn up over both days to honour the former Chase Terrace Technology College student.
Full information about the vigil and a map for visitors is available at www.lichfield-cathedral.org