TRIBUTES poured in from political leaders tonight (Tuesday, April 1) at a Westminster reception for a charity set up in the memory of the son of footballer Colin Cooper.

David Cameron led the plaudits for the Finlay Cooper Fund, which makes donations to children’s charities throughout the North-East and elsewhere.

Around £350,000 has been handed out to deserving causes since what one MP called the “appalling tragedy” of Finlay’s death in a choking accident at home, in 2002

Loading article content

Around 80 guests gathered to hear Mr Cooper vow: “We will continue to attempt to touch as many children’s lives as we possibly can.”

The former Middlesbrough and England defender – now manager of Hartlepool – also explained the background to the dragonfly, the fund’s emblem.

Mr Cooper, and his wife Julie, were given a book called Waterbugs and Dragonflies to help explain to their three daughters how Finlay would not be coming home.

He said: “We all wear our dragonflies with pride as a symbol to his memory and of our common bond – and hopefully, after this evening, many of you will too.”

All three party leaders sent messages of support, including No.10, which said the prime minister was “very sorry to read of Colin and Julie Cooper's tragic loss”.

The message added: “It is heartening to see the support they have received for the Finlay Cooper Fund.”

Nick Clegg said: “This charity does incredible work. It’s an inspiring and powerful legacy and one which I hope the Coopers can continue to build - in the name of their son, Finlay – in the years ahead.

And Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, wrote a personal letter to Mr Cooper, saying: “The way in which you are bringing help and support to thousands of people through the memory of Finlay is truly inspirational.”

The charity was set up in August 2006, four years and seven months after the accident, and has distributed around £150,000 so far.

More than £100,000 was raised from an ascent of Mount Kilimanjaro last year and - in June - 300 people are expected to attempt the 26-mile Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge.