In contemporary society, where social media is such an omnipresent and some would say suffocating aspect of modern life there are certain cases where it is undoubtedly a positive tool, used for the good of society.
It can be a powerful force in mobilising legions of people in their thousands and millions to shine light on a cause worth supporting. Hence, social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook have facilitated the rise in the success of many charitable causes, and have helped raise awareness of some great causes such as Cancer Research.
So when you combine the power of sport as a social tool, with the force and reach of social media you have a particularly potent mix - a partnership which can lead to tangible success in the form of helping to raise vital financial resources to help try and combat the destruction caused by such diseases as cancer.
Obviously all the instances of where sport and social media have helped to shine a light on heartfelt stories and causes are too numerous to mention. But I will start with a case that is very close to home for me: the heartbreaking story of young Oscar Knox, a fanatical young Glasgow Celtic fan who bravely lost his battle with cancer at only five years old.
The heart breaking news was announced by his parents Stephen and Leona on Thursday morning. They said: ‘Our beautiful, amazing and much-loved son, Oscar James Knox gained his angel wings yesterday afternoon. Sleep tight little man Xx.’
Oscar, of Belfast, Northern Ireland, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare and aggressive form of childhood cancer, back in November 2011. His story instantly struck a chord with the football world and his spirited fight for survival inspired the Celtic family to support him in his adversity. So inspired were the club by the courage shown by this little champion, they responded to the pleas of the fundraising appeal set up by his parents and contributed to the 600,000 pounds that was raised in total to fund specialist treatment for ‘Wee Oscar’.
The effort and endeavour of all involved, including Celtic Football Club and the fans, in the incredible fundraising attempts were a victory for humanity, and showed the power of sport and social media to unite people behind a common cause and inspire tangible success.
The incredible gestures from everyone involved in the fundraising effort, including the Parkhead club, looked to reap rich benefits for the brave little lad from Belfast as after many bouts of grueling treatment he was finally given the all clear from cancer in April 2013.
However, the joy of his family was short lived and the symptoms of his disease reared their ugly head again when Oscar and his parents were on a visit to Glasgow in August 2012. The news his proud parents had dreaded was confirmed, and in a blog post dated Thursday 15th August, his mother Leona announced, ‘Oscar’s cancer has returned and the disease is now spreading rapidly.’
The news was a hammer blow to his hopes of survival. But Oscar had already defied the odds as 25 per cent of kids born with his genetic disorder die before they are 2 years old. It is a true testament of his fighting spirit that he managed to survive as long as he did, and his equally brave and courageous parents will quite rightly be eternally proud of their little warrior.
This young bhoy’s desperate plight captured the imagination of the Celtic Family, a community who always look after their own, and who made it their collective mission to try and help his parents prolong their son’s life by working tirelessly to raise funds in his honour. So spell bound were people by his fight for survival Oscar’s Twitter account - set up his loving parents, primarily to update family and friends on his progress - quickly amassed over 58,000 followers, many of whom wrote heartwarming messages of support and encouragement. Of course, the messages may not have been much consolation to his parents but they probably were able to find a crumb of comfort in the countless kind words they received throughout Oscar’s long battle with neuroblastoma.
Unfortunately, in Oscar’s case, his triumph of the human spirit was unable to overcome the tragic circumstances bestowed upon him by this terrible disease. Yet, although he is now gone, he will never be forgotten. Certainly not by Celtic Football Club and loyal supporters. Nor will the magnificent contribution of the Parkhead faithful, many of whom put every fibre of their being in to helping little Oscar to try win his battle.
Despite growing up on the other half of the Old Firm divide, I have been touched by how much his plight managed to unite the club and capture the hearts and minds of the Celtic supporters. The emotion and support his tragic case elicited from the club was as genuine as it was heartwarming. As a consequence, I followed this story from the outset, and watched in awe as some Celtic supporters and affiliates of the club selflessly tried everything in their power to prevent this destructive disease claiming yet another victim.
Sadly his incredible journey has now come to an end. But the support he received from Celtic and the rest of the football world will be remembered forever, as will Oscar Knox.
The marriage of sport and social media and the power of this union cannot be underestimated, and the case of Oscar Knox has helped to restore my faith in humanity and made me realise just why we call football ‘The Beautiful Game’.
The negative by-products of sport and social media are necessary evils that have to be tolerated when you consider how social media and sport can be used as tools to inspire such support and connect both local and global communities to a common cause for the good of society. Let’s hope the matrimony of social media and ‘The Beautiful Game’ can try and save many more victims of this ugly disease, cancer.
Rest in Peace Oscar Knox and enjoy playing football up in heaven with the Angels wee man.
Thanks for Reading
Visit Oscar Blog: http://oscarknox.blogspot.ae/
Twitter Account: https://twitter.com/Wee_Oscar/followers
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