Touching tribute in memory of brave Verity

An emotional one-minute applause was held at Walsall FC’s final game of the season on Saturday in honour of an eight-year-old Saddlers fan who died following a brave two-year battle against cancer.

‘Inspirational’ Verity Sheldon died at Acorns Children’s Hospice in the Black Country on Friday, 19 April.

Walsall FC boss Mat Sadler visited Verity’s bedside at the charity’s Walsall hospice two days before her passing and spoke publicly afterwards of the heartbreak the family was experiencing, describing them as ‘one of the family’.

Verity’s dad Nick and mum Marie this week thanked Walsall FC and fellow Saddlers fans for their support and paid tribute to his beloved daughter who was so ‘full of joy’.

They also thanked Mat for visiting her at the hospice, which provides vital care for children with life limiting and life threatening conditions.

Nick and Marie said: “Verity was an amazing little girl – so kind, brave, happy, tenacious, determined, strong, fearless, inspirational, tough, selfless, considerate, funny, and always thought of others first.

“Verity loved football. She loved sitting on the tier above the goal. Every time she went, she wanted to have chips; she always had chips every time we went.”

Nick explained how it was back in 2022, at the end of the summer school holidays, when he and Verity’s mum Marie noticed her hands were shaking as she was having a drink.

“She was having a drink of milk, and her hands were shaking,” he said. “A doctor told us to take her straight to hospital. On the first day she should have gone back to school, she was having a brain scan.

Verity Sheldon with her chips at a Walsall FC match
Verity Sheldon with her chips at a Walsall FC match

‘We knew she would be comfortable at Acorns’

“They called me and her mum in and told us that Verity had a tumour at the back of her brain. They operated and removed the tumour, and she had 30 sessions of radiotherapy, along with chemotherapy.”

Money was raised to help give Verity, from Walsall, a magical trip to Disneyland but in June 2023 a second tumour was discovered. Despite more sessions of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, further small tumours appeared.

But it was earlier this month (April) that Verity woke up from a nap and couldn’t remember who her mum and dad were. After being rushed to Birmingham Children’s Hospital and further scans, the family was told nothing more could be done.

“It was then we said, if she makes it through the night, we will take her to Acorns. We knew she would be comfortable there,” Nick said. “I’d driven past it hundreds of times, but it was hidden away and didn’t even know it was there. But I knew about Acorns and have seen them fundraising at Walsall FC.”

Verity and big sister Vivien
Verity and big sister Vivien

Acorns then invited the Saddlers boss to visit Verity after hearing she was a big fan.

Nick said: “I was full of respect for him, that he took the time to come out and see Verity. He was struck with emotion, but it’s something Verity would have loved. She’s been a mascot at Walsall FC before and wanted to be a mascot again.

“At the last game she went to earlier this month she was perfectly fine. She sat eating chips and she was really enjoying herself. She even got me to buy her a Walsall FC hat, and she was wearing it everywhere.”

He added: “Her favourite things were cats, her big sister Vivien and brother Cole, going to the cinema, TGIs for food and of course going to the football.”

Walsall FC supporters were asked to remember the eight-year-old by applauding during the eighth minute of the game against AFC Wimbledon on Saturday. The family were in attendance.

Nick added: “We were a bit taken aback by it. It was a beautiful gesture. There was also a football shirt with Verity’s name and age on it which they held up on the pitch. It’s something that she would absolutely have loved.”

Acorns is the Saddlers’ official charity partner for the 2023/24 season, with the club and fans long-standing supporters of the hospice and its care for local children and families.

Following the match, Mat Sadler said: “As soon as that eighth minute ticked, it was a poignant moment for everybody as we came together to remember Verity. That’s what the Saddlers family is all about, we come together for our own.

“I have met her family and they are Walsall fans through and through. As a parent, that’s the worst thing that could possibly happen so hopefully we were able to give a little bit of comfort at this time. Thank you to all those people who joined in and celebrated the life of a wonderful child and showed their support for a wonderful family.”

Carmel Caldicott, Matron at Acorns in the Black Country, said: “We’d like to extend our sympathies to the family of Verity, who was a very brave girl, and we’re extremely grateful for the unwavering support of Walsall FC and to Mat Sadler for taking time to visit her.

“Acorns supports families through some of the most difficult times of their lives. Help for them, and for families like Verity’s, can’t wait. It’s only with the help of our local community that we can be there for them all.”

Acorns Children’s Hospice provides specialist palliative care for babies, children and young people with life limiting and life threatening conditions, and support for their families.

In the past year, the charity has cared for more than 750 children across the West Midlands, and supported almost 1,000 families, including those who are bereaved.

This care and support is provided from Acorns three hospices, based in Birmingham, Walsall and Worcester, and in the community.

Acorns needs around £30,000 each day to provide its children’s hospice care, with two thirds of that amount coming from generous donations and fundraising by the local community.

Find out how you can help Acorns be stronger together for local children and families by visiting