An inspirational young girl who bravely battled a rare childhood cancer was applauded by thousands as she made a pre-game star appearance for her local Super League team.
Three-year-old Anya Bentham, who grew up in Connah’s Quay before moving to Chester, waved at crowds as she was carried on to the Widnes Viking’s pitch by player Patrick Ah Van prior to their game against Castleford Tigers on July 3.
After being diagnosed with neuroblastoma in October 2012, Anya was finally given the all-clear in May, but due to the disease’s high relapse rate, parents Naomi and Graeme have decided to take her to America to take part in a clinical trial to try to prevent its return.
Graeme, who works in Connah’s Quay , has always been a big Vikings fan.
He said they were treated like ‘royalty’ by the club and that Anya absolutely loved the whole experience.
He said in a thank you to the club: “We had the most amazing time at the match last night and every single person we met made us feel so special.
“Anya never stopped smiling and had more fun than we ever could have hoped for. For Naomi and myself that means absolutely everything to us.”
Widnes Vikings have been huge supporters of Anya’s appeal since it was launched and last year Patrick Ah Van shaved his head for the cause.
Marketing director Brian O’Connor said: “On behalf of all the players, coaches and staff at Widnes Vikings, I would like to express just how thrilled we all are about the news of Anya’s recovery.
“Anya has been through so much throughout the course of her treatment and has shown just what a brave and courageous little girl she is.
Patrick Ah Van added: “I remember going to meet Anya and I was so inspired by her and her fight against cancer. I told Anya’s family that I would do all I could to help raise awareness of Anya and her appeal.
"She is a real fighter and for her to get this news is great. I played pretty well last year against Wigan after shaving my head, scoring a hat trick. I managed to get over for a try against Castleford, a game we lost, but the winner on the night was Anya.”