Mum pays tribute to teen Northampton golf champion son who lost his battle with cancer
“When you're in an isolation room together for so long, you either drive each other crazy or you become best buds... and we were best buds.”
Friends and family lined up on a street in Far Cotton to pay their respects to a “courageous” 15-year-old boy, who recently passed away after a three-year battle with leukemia.
Sam Dunkley’s funeral took place yesterday (April 22) and - with Covid restrictions meaning that only 30 people could attend the service - school friends, teachers and extended family lined up on Rothersthorpe Road at 11.20am to watch the funeral procession.
Those honouring the teen all took to the streets wearing blue - Sam’s favourite colour.
Sam’s mother, Sarah Dunkley, said: “The love and support shown today was a testament of how much our amazing and courageous boy was loved by all who came to know him.
“He was a gifted golfer who was happiest when he was out on the course. We are all heartbroken by his passing and we will miss him always.”
Sam, only last year, won a two-day adult golf tournament at Kingsthorpe Golf Club at just the age of 14 despite being in and out of hospital receiving cancer treatment for the last two years with little to no practice.
The teenager from Far Cotton was diagnosed with leukemia in February 2018. Sarah, reflecting on Sam when he was younger, said: “He really struggled with school - he had dyslexia, you see - he used to run circles around me when he was a toddler, he was absolutely wild!
“But then Neil [Sam’s father] took him to the golf course and suddenly he had something to focus on and it really calmed him down. It’s a respectable sport and he was mostly playing with adults and that’s where I think he got his maturity from.
“He has never made a fuss; he would never tell anyone he played in the junior golf tournament. He was the most courageous person I’ve ever met and I think that’s what made him so loveable and why people took him into their hearts. He wasn’t a show off, he was a really kind and humble lad.”
Sam underwent chemotherapy, radiotherapy, bone marrow transplants and a range of cancer treatments at hospitals in Nottingham, Sheffield and London since his diagnosis.
He received just under 400 cards for his 13th birthday in 2018 after his family put out an appeal on Facebook urging friends and family to surprise him with a big pile of birthday cards from all around the world. He was sent cards from all over the UK as well as Ireland, France, Germany, Finland, Canada and the United States.
Sam’s great auntie, Zoe Zoomer, lives in Canada. She said: “My granddaughter - who is a couple of years younger than Sam - got her grade four class to make cards for Sam and we mailed them to him.
“He had them all round his hospital bed. The children, when they saw me at her school, would often ask after him.”
Sam also received video messages from professional golfers, Ian Poulter, Andrew 'Beef' Johnston, and Matthew Fitzpatrick. Mr Fitzpatrick also sent Sam a putter, shirt and a signed golf ball from Florida and he kept in touch with Sam and his family through Instagram.
When Sam was not playing golf, he was always busy constructing with his Lego sets - something his mother said “really helped” him get through this cancer treatment.
Sam peacefully passed away in hospital on April 4. A short story Sam had written was read out during his funeral service yesterday - it was about a fly assassin whose urine could kill. A spider, after finding out the fly was an assassin, built a murder-bot to destroy him.
Sarah said: “I came across it on his laptop and I laughed so much when I read it. I just knew it had to be a part of the funeral service - it was his sense of humour all over! I think he forgot that spiders ate flies.”
Sam’s family plan to eventually donate all of his Lego to the small charities that helped them get through these extremely difficult years - charities that do not often get very much funding in comparison to more prominent cancer support charities.
Charities that supported Sam and his family include Alfie’s Cause and PASIC cancer support for children and young people - you can find out more about the work they do by visiting their websites.