A town trader has paid tribute to inspirational fundraiser Kirsty Howard.
Kirsty, 20, who was born with her heart back to front, died in the early hours of Saturday morning surrounded by her family.
Heartfelt tributes have poured in for Kirsty, who helped raise more than £7.5 million for Francis House Children’s Hospital, including from David Cameron and David Beckham.
Former Hyndburn councillor Kevin Horkin, 52, who owns Spex Opticians in Church Street, knew Kirsty for 16 years and has been a patron of her charity for the last decade.
Mr Horkin said: “I knew that Kirsty had been very poorly for some time but her death has affected me very deeply.
“I have been a patron of ‘The Kirsty Appeal’ which is named after Kirsty for the past ten years.
“I helped Kirsty to raise in excess of £5 million required for a new large extension for Francis House Children’s Hospice in Manchester, which offers support for families of children with a short life expectancy.
“During that time I got to know Kirsty and her family, her parents Lynn and Steve and her sisters Zoe and Kim extremely well.”
When Kirsty was four years old her parents were warned that she only had six weeks to live.
Through sheer determination and willpower she defied the odds to become a champion fundraiser, Pride of Britain winner and inspirational national treasure.
Kirsty, from Wythenshawe, carried on campaigning and raised enough cash to build a new wing at the hospice while at the same time studying hard to achieve her dream of becoming a special needs teacher.
Mr Horkin added: “Working with Kirsty gave me the opportunity to do charitable work which has helped so many families of very poorly children.
“For that I will be forever grateful. Like many others who worked with her I found her a truly inspirational person.”
Mr Horkin, who recently attended Kirsty’s 20th birthday party, said that she would be sorely missed by all who met her.
He said: “I would like to pay my ultimate respects to someone that truly enriched not only my own life but the lives of a very large number of people who worked with her.”