Sheffield United: 'I feel like they are part of our family now' - Manchester United's Dean Henderson and Everton's Kieran Dowell praised after forming close bond with brave Sheffield boy battling terminal illness

A Sheffield mum has spoken of her gratitude to two Sheffield United loan stars after they formed a close bond with her terminally-ill son, who is bravely battling heart disease.

Thursday, 7th February 2019, 15:33 pm
Updated Saturday, 9th February 2019, 09:39 am

Nine-year-old Harri Parker was born with a congenital heart disease known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, meaning the left lower pumping chamber of his heart hasn’t developed properly, debilitating his heart function. The youngster has undergone three open-heart surgeries and countless other procedures, at Leeds General Infirmary.

Killamarsh-born Harri is a huge Blades fan, growing close to striker Caolan Lavery who is currently on loan at Bury, and has formed a similar bond with Manchester United loanee Dean Henderson and Kieran Dowell, of Everton.

The two regularly visit Harri at home, with mum Jeni posting a heartwarming video on Twitter of her son teaching the players how to perform the 'floss' dance, made popular by the Fortnite video game.

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And Harri also walked out with Henderson as a mascot before last weekend's victory against Bolton Wanders. The England U21 goalkeeper has posted a photo of the two on Twitter, calling Harri 'his hero'.

And mum Jeni told The Star: "Dean, Kieran and Caolan do so much behind the scenes with Harri. He just sees the video as three mates having a laugh, and that's exactly what it is.

"The lads are amazing, and he loves their visits. He always gives them a cuddle and tells them he loves them. In his eyes, Dean, Kieran and Caolan are his best friends, who just happen to play, or have played, for his football team.

Dean Henderson with Harri Parker (Twitter)

"They sit chatting about school and his visits to hospital or Bluebell Wood. They have a laugh at each other and play computer games. It all feels very normal for Harri, which is what we try and make every day."

Jeni's video has since gone viral on Twitter, with fans quick to praise the duo for giving their time to the family.

"Henderson seems to go out of his way for club fans he's not even connected to," said David Nash. "Fair play to him for doing what he does."

Another supporter, Wayne Sheldon, added: "It’s good of Dowell to get straight involved like this as well... not been at the club too long!"

Kieran Dowell with Harri

Jeni added: "Seeing Harri happy is all I want - his laugh is infectious and his cheeky ways are funny.

"These lads aren't only making Harri happy, but they are giving me and my family cherished memories to look back on when Harri gains his wings.

"It's like they are part of our family now."

Blades fan Dave Ward will take part in two fundraising runs in April, to support Bluebell Wood after being inspired by Harri's story.

Mascot Harri with Henderson (Pic Dave Ward)

Ward will run the Sheffield Half Marathon on April 14 and then tackle the Blackpool Marathon two weeks later.

"This is going to a challenge for me but nothing like what Harri has been through," Ward said.

"At just days old he underwent 15-hour open heart surgery and the surgeon lost him several times. He then had 14-hour and 12-hour surgeries and has undergone countless more, but he's a warrior and never gave up.

"Like myself, Harri is a big Blades fan and us Blades have followed his story and really took Harri into our hearts."

Follow Ward's fundraising efforts on Twitter.