“Words cannot describe how amazing this young lady has been over the years,” Beckham captioned the picture. “Kirsty has been defying doctors for many years and whilst doing that she has been raising millions of pounds for terminally ill children.”
Beckham explains that he met Kirsty Howard in 2002, “when she became the nation’s and my good luck charm for the game against Greece. We also met the queen together in Manchester so you could say we have spent some amazing moments together over the years and it was an inspiration to meet such a brave young lady with so much drive for helping others.”
He finishes the message, saying, “My love and thoughts go to Kirsty’s parents and sisters as this inspirational young lady will be missed … My heart and love goes to Kirsty for letting me be a small part of your world over the years.. Rest in peace.”
The picture features a young Howard sitting on Beckham’s lap, both of them sporting soccer jerseys.
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According to BBC News, Howard was born with her heart back-to-front, one of only two children in the world with this defect. She was given just weeks to live at age four, but survived through her 20th birthday.
Howard launched the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games with Beckham and went on to raise millions of pounds for Manchester’s Francis House Children’s Hospice, the BBC reports. She was awarded the BBC’s Helen Rollason Award in 2004 for her courage and determination, and also received the Child of Courage and Pride of Britain awards.