Kirsty’s shining moment in Blackpool

2002 Illuminations Switch On ceremony. Ronan Keating and Kirsty Howard switch on the Lights. PIC BY ROB LOCK
2002 Illuminations Switch On ceremony. Ronan Keating and Kirsty Howard switch on the Lights. PIC BY ROB LOCK
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This bright little star once outshone all the big names of pop, at the Illuminations Switch-on in Blackpool.

Kirsty Howard, who sadly died at the weekend, was just six years old, when she became the star of the show in 2002.

She helped heart-throb and singer Ronan Keating to throw the lever for the famous Blackpool Lights.

The youngster – who was born with her heart back to front – had only been discharged from hospital the day before, just in time to travel to Blackpool.

Around 20,000 fans packed in to witness the touching moment, on a night which had also seen Pop Idol Darius, Toploader, the Sugababes and A1 perform.

Kirsty blew a kiss to her hero and said: “Well, that’s it.

I will be thinking about him all night now.”

Brave Kirsty had returned to the resort again in 2007, for a week-long family holiday with her parents Steve and Lynn and sister Kim, then 15. She had been in and out of hospital all year, meaning they had been unable to go on holiday.

She had spent a month in hospital with acute kidney failure, before the family headed to the seaside.

When Kirsty visited, she headed straight to her favourite ride at the Pleasure Beach.

She was treated like a VIP celebrity guest during her stay – staying at Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s Big Blue Hotel and enjoying some of resort’s top attractions, such as Pleasure beach, Sandcastle Waterworld, Tower Circus, Blackpool Zoo and the Sea Life Centre.

Inspirational Kirsty was not expected to live past the age of four, but survived to the age of 20 – she helped raise a staggering £7.5m for Francis House Children’s Hospice, in Didsbury, Manchester.

Kirsty, who won the heart of soccer star David Beckham among a host of other celebrities, won the Helen Rollason Award for courage, at the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year Awards, in 2004.

Her funeral is to take place next week, at her local church in Manchester.