Celebrity Wales v England football game for boy, 3

Joseph Yeandle smiling while playing on a slide in a park. He is wearing a replica Swansea City shirt, with a tube related to his treatment attached to his face going into a nostril
Swansea City fan Joseph Yeandle will have an all-star football match played in his memory at the club's stadium on Saturday [Katy Yeandle]

It would have made little Joseph Yeandle's day seeing radio host Roman Kemp, ex-Premier League striker Jermain Defoe, Rugby World Cup winner Mike Tindall and a host of reality stars take to the field in his name at his favourite club's ground.

But sadly, the "always smiling" Swansea City football fan died aged just three from a rare form of cancer in 2021.

Now his mum Katy and aunt Emma, from Rhosamman at the foot of the Black Mountains in south Wales, have devoted their lives to helping families like theirs who have children with neuroblastoma.

In the hope of raising awareness and funds for them, they've arranged the all-star Wales v England football game at Swansea City's ground on Saturday.

"I remember standing in the pouring rain with a bucket on a street corner trying to raise funds for Joseph, to have what we'd hope would be life-saving treatment in America," recalled Katy.

Liam, James, Katy and Joseph Yeandle
Mum Katy Yeandle with Joseph, who died nine months after his cancer diagnosis around Easter 2021 [Katy Yeandle ]

"I thought at the time 'what am I doing here, I should be spending this precious time with my son', but we were so desperate to raise the money we just did what we had to do."

The family were hoping to raise £300,000 so Joseph could undergo new treatment in New York that wasn't available on the NHS, called the bivalent vaccine trial.

The Yeandle's raised £200,000 in nine months through fundraising events and online campaigns, but the superhero-obsessed Joseph died a few days after Christmas in 2021.

Katy and Joseph's father James had bought Joseph his first school uniform that he never got to wear, and Christmas presents that he never got to open, but have now channelled their grief into helping others.

"We couldn't let anyone else go through what we did, that feeling of desperation and pressure to raise money to try and save his life," said Katy, whose work has been recognised by the Pride of Britain awards.

"I don't regret trying to raise money, but I wish I didn't have to miss that quality time I could've had with Joseph.

"So if we can relieve that burden for mums and dads that are going through hell, and give them time to spend every precious moment with their child rather than worrying about the money, then that's a positive legacy for Joseph.

"It's important for us as a family as it has helped in our grief, it feels like we're keeping him alive and doing him proud."

Katy and her sister Emma Rees, 43, formed the Joseph's Smile foundation to distribute funds raised for Joseph's treatment to other ill children, and are currently supporting 16 families.

The two mums helped attract football stars like former Swansea and Wales captain Ashley Williams and international teammate Joe Ledley to line-up alongside rugby legends Shane Williams and Gareth Thomas, plus reality TV stars Liam Reardon and Jordan Davies, in a Wales team managed by Welsh Euro 2016 boss Chris Coleman for the celebrity match.

Roman Kemp
Roman Kemp will play alongside other celebrities like presenter Joe Swash for England in Saturday's game in Swansea [Getty]

The English team will be led former Tottenham striker Defoe, who played at the 2010 World Cup for England, as the visiting side has been arranged by the Bradley Lowery Foundation - started in honour of the six-year-old boy who also died of neuroblastoma in 2017.

The side will be managed by Defoe's former England teammates Sol Campbell, Kieron Dyer and Joe Cole.

Jermain Defoe and Bradley Lowery
Former Spurs and Sunderland striker Jermain Defoe had a close bond with Bradley Lowery before he died, and is now a patron of his foundation [Getty Images]

Both foundations aim to raise awareness and funds for families whose children have neuroblastoma, cancer that develops in nerve cells which mostly affects children under five.

Neuroblastoma is the most frequently occurring solid tumour in infants under the age of one, and affects about 83 children per year in the UK.

Mascots for the game will be children whose families are being helped by the foundations, and Katy says while the game has taken almost two years to organise it has helped her as much as she hopes it helps families.

"I've spent months just sat on my sofa emailing agents - I've messaged about 2,000," joked Katy.

"The logistics of hosting a game has been bonkers. I've been up most nights until 4am or I'm up at 4am.

"I thought it'd be just two teams kicking a ball, but it has been all-consuming. I only just remembered on Wednesday that I need to get a football so they can play."

Katy Yeandle
Katy Yeandle said she only knew about neuroblastoma because of what Bradley Lowery went through [BBC]

Katy said she is preparing for "bittersweet emotional rollercoaster" Saturday's match at the 21,000-capacity Stadium.

"The grief is always there and some months I can't do anything and can't leave the house," recalls the former comprehensive school teacher.

"I'm sure I'll break down in tears on Saturday. But seeing the children we're helping as mascots, and seeing the people turn out for Joseph and Bradley, it's going to be so special."