England fan who turned down Euro 2020 tickets to donate stem cells wins national award

An England fan who turned down tickets to the Euro 2020 semi-final so he could donate stem cells has won a national charity award.

Sam Astley has been shortlisted for Donor Champion of the Year
Sam Astley has been shortlisted for Donor Champion of the Year

Sam Astley from Dudley joined a stem cell register as his friend, Simon Wilkes, has a rare blood cancer.

Simon's son, Olly Wilkes, died aged only 22, and when his father organised a memorial football tournament in tribute to him, Sam was inspired to do his own good deed.

The 24-year-old signed up to the Anthony Nolan register in 2018 and was called up to donate on the day England went face-to-face with Denmark in the Euro 2020 semi-finals.

The donor from Sedgley selflessly gave up his tickets to Wembley to donate his stem cells to a stranger he may never meet. He eventually ended up going to the final after being offered tickets to a free by a sponsor inspired by his work.

Now, Sam has won Donor Champion of the Year at the Anthony Nolan Supporter Awards with the ceremony taking place on Thursday evening.

Sam said: “I feel over the moon! I hope to continue doing what I can to spread more awareness.”

Presenting the award, Douglas Mbang said: "Sam Astley selflessly chose to donate his stem cells instead of attending the Euro 2020 semi-finals at Wembley.

"But he didn't stop there. After donating, Sam worked non-stop to share his story in the media.

"He inspired over 1,500 people, particularly young men, to join the stem cell register during the last weeks of the Euros.

"Massively well-deserved, you have been outstanding. Thank you so much."

This year, Sam will continue fundraising for the blood cancer charity with Simon and Lynn Wilkes by doing a wing walk.

He is also working with The London Clinic, a major stem cell collection centre, to raise awareness of stem cell register.

Henny Braund, chief executive of Anthony Nolan, said: “It is remarkable to see how many people support our work to find a match for those in need of a stem cell transplant. Without them, none of our life-saving work would be possible.

"Congratulations to Sam Astley, Because of you, 1,500 people were inspired to apply to join the Anthony Nolan register and have given patients in need of a donor a hope for a second chance”.

The Anthony Nolan Supporter Awards recognise the outstanding achievements of the volunteers, fundraisers, clinical supporters and donors who help the blood cancer charity save lives.

The awards, which are in their eighth year, have seen hundreds of people honoured for making the charity’s work possible.

Celebrity winners have included Oscar-winning actor Olivia Colman, reality star Bobby Norris, and Olympic medallist Chris Newton.

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