Sport can often bring out the best in people and for Jason Sweeney from Sunderland discovering squash proved to be a turning point in his life.
Jason was introduced to the game when he was 17-years-old by Derek Brown, a family friend from Washington, and it gave him a focus for his energy at a time when he was making what he knows now to be poor decisions.
Derek, who died from a very rare and aggressive throat cancer in 2012, became an important figure in Jason’s life and he credits him for helping set him on ‘the right path’.
Jason, who is married with a son and a daughter, explains: “When I was a teenager, I was becoming a bit of a tearaway and I might have continued down that road if Derek hadn’t stepped in.
“He basically said to me, you’ll be too tired to cause trouble after you’ve played squash, and he was right. I found I really enjoyed the game and it became a passion.
“I looked up to Derek like he was an older brother. He was a great man with a wicked sense of humour who took me under his wing. He’s a huge miss.”
Derek, aged 55 when he died, was married with a son and received treatment at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care, Freeman Hospital in Newcastle.
John Ord and Jason Sweeney (right)
In his memory, and to raise funds for our Foundation, Jason and his friend John Ord, from Wardley, have organised a squash tournament at the Primrose Community Centre in Jarrow where he used to play.
Jason adds: “This is the fourth year of the Derek Brown Handicap and we’re so pleased with the way it’s grown.
“We’ll have 32 entrants this year, including the top North East players, and it’s a fantastic competition raising money for a very important cause. Derek would have absolutely loved it.
“I’d recommend squash to anyone. It’s a great sport which has made a huge difference in my life.”
The Derek Brown Handicap has raised over £2,000 for our Foundation in the last three years and is sponsored by Kidd and Spoor Solicitors Ltd, Diamond Business Group, S & K Services and Sabre Sports.
Liz Luff, from our Foundation, says: “Derek sounds like a special man who made a great difference to Jason’s life.
“We’re grateful to Jason, John and all the entrants in the Derek Brown Handicap for supporting for our work. The money raised will help us continue to find better ways to detect and treat cancer.”