TRIBUTES have been paid to champion of poorly children’s wishes Steve Ford who was found dead at his Kingswinford home over the festive season.

Steve was known throughout the borough for his Wishing Well charity through which he aimed to help make dreams come true for young patients at Dudley’s Russells Hall Hospital.

Plagued with his own health problems from a young age which cut short his working life, the well-known hospital radio DJ had been trying to brighten up the days of poorly youngsters for more than 30 years and would visit the children's ward at the hospital regularly to see how he could help young inpatients realise an ambition from trying their hand at a dream job or sport to riding in fast cars and limousines, meeting celebrities and even riding in a horse-drawn pumpkin coach.

He also managed to fix up a flight on Concorde for one lucky patient.

Steve, who was reportedly found dead at his home in Ash Crescent on December 29, would also take gifts to give out on the ward such as balloons, pens, badges and colouring books, which had been donated by local companies.

He first started doing his bit to help bring cheer to poorly youngsters through his role as a presenter on Dudley Hospital Radio, which he joined in the early 1980s.

Long-time friend Dave Brownhill, a director of Black Country Radio, said he had known Steve, aged 60, for about 40 years and he added: "I appointed him to work on the children's show and we came up with the idea of a dream come true initiative and he literally threw himself into it.

"I'm so saddened to hear what's happened. It's a total shock."

Charity worker and disability campaigner Ceri Davies, of Kingswinford, was also saddened to hear of Steve's death and said on Facebook: "He granted me a wish when I was 16 to ride in a horse and carriage and it was on ITV Central News." She described Steve as "a dear friend" and "an amazing man" and said: "He could never see what a difference he was making to children and families, he was such a modest man."

Friend and neighbour Shelley Lowe added: "He was one in a million. He was such a selfless man. He was so loved."

Shortly before his death - Steve had been helping with Dudley Council for Voluntary Service's Operation Santa appeal, sorting and wrapping presents, to help bring a smile to the faces of needy children across the Dudley borough.

He had also helped out with a charity Christmas lunch on December 17 at The Courthouse in Kingswinford where he had been entertaining children and their parents.

Eileen Fielding, of DCVS, said: "Steve always had a smile and a kind word for everyone. He was an angel in disguise to many people."

In 2016 Steve had been awarded the children and families award at the Dudley Volunteer Awards for his charity work - and the News understands a bid to nominate him for a Royal honour had recently begun.

Back in 2007 he was presented with a volunteer of the year award at The Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Trust Committed to Excellence awards - and as part of his voluntary work at the hospital he helped to create a gnome garden to amuse patients on the children's ward after helping one youngster to realise her sickbed dream to smash up garden gnomes with a guitar while dressed as Angus Young from rock band AC/DC.

The bizarre dream come true experience led to a flurry of donations and an outcry from gnome lovers so Steve decided to keep the ornaments in the best condition and create a gnomery which still stands in the hospital grounds today.

Karen Kelly, chief operating office for the Dudley Group, said she was "very sad" to hear of Steve's death and added: "I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences to Steve’s family and friends.

"Steve worked tirelessly as a trust volunteer for 35 years, mainly on the children’s ward at Russells Hall Hospital, where he made children’s dreams come true through his Wishing Well charity.  He will be missed by many."

The cause of Steve's death and details of his funeral have yet to be confirmed.