Jerry Thompson fundraising page climbs past £1,000 target overnight
A fundraising page set up to support the family of Jerry Thompson exceeded its £1,000 target overnight.
Carrick Rangers player Gerard 'Jerry' Thompson (24), died suddenly this week. His funeral will take place at 9am on Saturday, in Sacred Heart Church followed by burial in Belmont Cemetery, Antrim.
He had been due to start for his team against Glenavon on Tuesday night but instead his club announced the shocking news after the match, prompting a wave of support.
The GoFundMe page was set up on Wednesday by well-known Irish League supporter Gemma Caddell as the local football community looked to "pull together to help one of our own".
The aim of the fundraiser is to offer assistance towards funeral costs, any memorial to the Carrick player and to support his seven-month-old son Thiago.
"My ex-partner passed away when we had a wee boy of only three so I know how hard it is," explained Gemma.
"When that happened to us, we couldn't pay all the costs up front and had to pay things off.
"You obviously don't plan for something like this to happen.
"It was after a few years that my boy was affected by what happened and by that time, we couldn't get help on the NHS so I had to pay for counselling for him.
"It's things like that that you don't even realise at the time but that come further down the road."
In under 24 hours, over 100 contributors had raised £1,850, well past the initial target of £1,000.
"I knew people wanted to help," Gemma continued.
"It only took three hours to reach our initial target but hopefully people will keep contributing what they can. Some other people have contacted me to say they're doing their own things to support the family so the football community is really rallying round.
"Everyone knows someone who has struggled with mental health issues. It's such a huge thing at the moment and it can happen to anyone."
The Irish FA Foundation currently hosts their Ahead the Game course, which aims to support clubs in dealing with mental health issues and challenge the stigma around mental health issues. A total of 360 people have attended the 24 courses that have taken place, representing 98 clubs from professional to grass roots.
However, Thompson's passing has prompted fans to call for increased provision, with Gemma hoping that new structures can be put in place.
"Hopefully it can kick something new off," she added.
"This is the time to start focusing on it and get rid of the stigma about opening up on mental health issues. They're so common and impact so many young guys."
Carrick Rangers' Danske Bank Premiership match at Cliftonville on Saturday has been postponed as a mark of respect, as have the club's Under 18 and Under 16 fixtures.
The club has also ensured professional support is available to players and staff in the aftermath of Thompson's death.
"We would encourage anyone, inside or outside of the Club, who at any stage may feel that they need to speak to someone in a time when they are struggling, to not suffer in silence. It's OK to not be OK," read a club statement.
Belfast Telegraph Digital