SICK children met soccer stars Kevin Phillips and Michael Gray, courtesy of a charity.

The youngsters, who have life-threatening or terminal illnesses, met the Sunderland AFC players and manager Peter Reid during an event organised by the Rainbow Trust children's charity.

They watched the players in training before joining them for lunch.

Violet Dobinson, whose four-year-old son, Steven Atkinson, has leukaemia, said: "It was very special to have a day out as a family and it has given us a boost. The players and Peter Reid were excellent with the children and I know they will talk about this day for a long time to come."

The trust provides support and respite care for families. Mrs Dobinson said: "People do not understand the stresses and strains of dealing with a sick child, but Rainbow does. It is a godsend.