Footballing friends have hit the back of the net in memory of a team-mate’s baby girl, claiming victory in a charity football match, and raising over £1,600 for Birmingham Children’s Hospital.

The Bonnie-Rae Rovers team was the brainchild of Gary Taylor, who jumped at the chance to do something for the specialist paediatric centre, where his friends, Dave and Sarah’s new-born daughter, Bonnie-Rae was cared for.

Bonnie-Rae was born with a condition called Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia, which meant there was a hole in her diaphragm, and so whilst growing in her mum, her organs had slipped through and squashed her lungs and heart, affecting their development. Before her birth, she was given just a 50 per cent chance of survival and, heartbreakingly, after she arrived, the family’s worst fears were confirmed, when doctor’s broke the news that her condition was at the severe spectrum, meaning she could slip away at any moment.

It was a race against time, to transfer her to Birmingham Children’s Hospital and have her hooked up to an ECLS machine to help oxygenate her blood, bypassing her underdeveloped lungs. She then went on to have an operation to fix the hernia, whilst still connected to the ECLS machine. It was a huge risk and a first for surgeons at the hospital, who usually disconnect the patient from the machine first.


Meanwhile, Gary was keen to do anything he could to help the family, and having been given the chance to hire the football pitch at Molineux Stadium in Wolverhampton, he knew exactly how he could use this golden opportunity. Ringing around his friends and his Sunday-league football team, Gary pulled together a team of mates they titled Bonnie-Rae Rovers, to raise money for Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity. They went up against Riley’s Rangers, a team pulled together to honour another friend’s little boy who is currently battling cancer.


Back at the hospital, it was time for Bonnie-Rae to come off the ECLS machine, but during the procedure her stats dropped. She tried to fight on, but it was clear that she was deteriorating and her tiny little lungs couldn’t keep going. She fell asleep forever in her parents’ arms at three-and-a-half weeks’ old.

Gary said: “We were all absolutely devastated for Dave and Sarah when little Bonnie-Rae lost her fight, but it gave us even more reason to play a really good game and raise as much money for the hospital. Dave and Sarah spoke about the dedication of the doctors, nurses, support workers and even the cleaners. They gave the family more time they thought they’d have with Bonnie-Rae.

“Dave took prime position as team captain and led the Bonnie-Rae Rovers to victory, scoring two goals in our 3-1 win, as Sarah cheered from the stands. It was so special and meant so much to them.”

Miranda Williams, Head of Fundraising at Birmingham Children’s Hospital Charity, said: “While nothing can ever take away the pain of losing a precious child, many of our families take comfort in fundraising in their memory and Gary did an incredible job of organising this charity match in honour of Bonnie Rae.

“The money he and the Bonnie-Rae Rovers have raised for our hospital will go towards making sure we can continue to go above and beyond for our families, and give our little patients the best fighting chance.”