On Friday night, the star visited the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, where many of her young fans are being treated.
Adam Harrison and Lauren Thorpe, who were injured in the blast along with their 8-year-old daughter Lily, shared photos of their little girl embracing Grande. “All we can do is thank Ariana,” Thorpe tells PEOPLE. Adds Harrison, “What Ariana Grande did tonight was so selfless and amazing … Lily looked on cloud nine.”
Of their bootleg Grande apparel in the photos, Harrison tells PEOPLE, “We bought official merchandise at the concert but was ruined (ripped/blood) so [we] had to throw it away. But an unofficial shirt seller outside the venue donated the t-shirts he didn’t sell to the kids in hospital. I apologized to Ariana that we had unofficial merchandise on, and explained the story. She laughed at and told us not to worry at all!”
Sharing photos of Grande embracing his daughter Jaden, Peter Mann wrote on his Facebook page: “This means more to us than all the amazing things people have done this week. when your daughter asks after her 2nd operation is ariana ok? so happy she came i could burst! Never seen jaden so happy! even cried again myself.”
Mom Sharon told the Manchester Evening News, “Jaden was just sat there watching TV and she walked in. She was absolutely amazed! It was a complete surprise. She has a big smile anyway but it got even bigger, Ariana gave her a hug and a kiss, she was in awe. It was absolutely fantastic to see, she was so happy.”
Today was one of the toughest days I have ever witnessed. @arianagrande you were a rock for so many in need. Thank you to all who helped us and to the amazing children and their families we met and the families of those lost we sat with. Your courage has changed us all forever. #westandwithmanchester
“Ariana’s being very strong. She is really looking forward to seeing her fans and spending time with them this weekend,” a source close to the star tells PEOPLE exclusively. “Things are still hard for her, but she’s continuing to lean on her family and friends.”
Concertgoers as young as 8 years old were killed on May 22 when Salman Abedi, 22, detonated an improvised explosive device near the ticket office outside Manchester Arena. Many remained hospitalized in the wake of the attack and several teenagers are among the dead.
After the tragedy, Grande headed to Florida to be with family with a source telling PEOPLE then that the singer was “absolutely crushed” and had barely slept that week.
Now, the 23-year-old pop star is back in the area for a star-studded charity concert to benefit the victims of the attack. She broke the news in a special Twitter message just four days after the tragedy.
“Our response to this violence must be to come closer together, to help each other, to love more, to sing louder and to live more kindly and generously than we did before,” she wrote in the statement.
“I’ll be returning to the incredibly brave city of Manchester to spend some time with my fans and to have a benefit concert in honor of and to raise money for the victims and their families.”
Ariana Grande Promises Benefit Concert for Manchester After Suicide Blast
All proceeds from the concert, which takes place at the Emirates Old Trafford stadium in the city, are going to the Red Cross’s Manchester Emergency Fund. The show is expected to bring in around $2.6 million.
The concert will air live on Freeform at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday. A “one-hour highlight special” will later air on ABC following the NBA Finals. BBC, the host broadcaster, is producing TV coverage.
- With reporting by SARAH MICHAUD and JORDAN RUNTAGH