COMMUNITY champion Steve Ford will forever be remembered on the children's ward at Russells Hall Hospital where a plaque honouring his charity work has been unveiled.

Steve, a former hospital radio DJ turned children's wish-maker, died suddenly at his Kingswinford home in December at the age of 60 just a few days after helping out with Dudley CVS's annual Operation Santa appeal.

Stourbridge News: Steve FordSteve Ford

But it was his dedication to helping to make dreams come true for poorly youngsters on the children's ward at Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley that he will be most remembered for.

A funeral service for Steve was held in February at St Mary's Church in Kingswinford, attended by hundreds, and £700 was donated in his memory to the charity Versus Arthritis - as Steve battled debilitating arthritis for much of his life.

Such was his popularity in the community that a further service to celebrate his life and achievements was held today (Tuesday May 22) at Russells Hall Hospital where he had been a dedicated volunteer for more than 30 years.

A service in the prayer room was followed by the unveiling of a commemorative plaque on the children's ward where Steve devoted countless hours to trying to bring smiles to poorly youngsters by arranging for them to live their dream for a day.

Over the years he organised helicopter and limousine rides, pop star meet and greets, dream job taster days and he even managed to arrange for one lucky child to enjoy a flight around the Bay of Biscay on Concorde.

Lifelong friend Dave Brownhill, founder of Dudley Hospital Radio, said: "Steve helped to make over five hundred dreams come true for poorly youngsters on the children's ward through his charity, Wishing Well."

Stourbridge News: Lifelong friend Dave Brownhill remembers Steve Ford at the memorial service at Russells Hall HospitalLifelong friend Dave Brownhill remembers Steve Ford at the memorial service at Russells Hall Hospital

At the memorial service he told how Steve came by his famous moniker after being told his birth name, Stephen Mukanovic, would not work for radio when he became a member of Dudley Hospital Radio in 1983.

He said: "We came up with the idea of a 'dream come true' and he just loved the challenge."

He said the radio show "took over his life" and he added: "He was just so dedicated to the children's ward at Russells Hall. He absolutely loved the kids."

Dudley Group chief executive Diane Wake paid tribute to Steve and said he was "very much loved for his warmth and generosity".

Linda Taylor, from the children's ward, added: "Steve was my close friend and colleague for well over 20 years. We were incredibly fond of him. Steve never wanted praise or recognition. All he ever needed was a smile on the faces of patients - he was never happier than when making people happy. He never got paid but no one could have paid him what he was worth to us.

"He was the most incredibly selfless person and would do anything to dodge the limelight - not even his family were aware of the phenomenal amount of charity work that he did."

Steve's cousin Gill Rees made the trip from New Quay in Wales to attend the memorial and she said: "The service was simple but very moving.

"I'm sure Steve would have been absolutely humbled and proud."

Stourbridge News: Hospital chief executive Diane Wake with relatives Gill Rees and Janice GloverHospital chief executive Diane Wake with relatives Gill Rees and Janice Glover

She was joined by Steve's cousin Janice Glover from Wombourne and his niece Clare Gibson and she added: "Since he passed so many of us have only just really come to realise how much he did. We all knew he was involved in charity work and very busy but the extent and range of things he did - they've been quite amazing."

Stourbridge News: The plaque honouring late hospital volunteer Steve FordThe plaque honouring late hospital volunteer Steve Ford

Steve's legacies at the hospital include a sensory room for the children's ward and a gnome garden which was created when he amassed a collection of the little garden ornaments as part of his efforts to help a young patient realise her sickbed dream to smash up garden gnomes with a guitar while dressed as Angus Young from rock band AC/DC. After an appeal for gnomes brought in more than were needed Steve kept the best of the bunch and created a garden for hospital patients to enjoy.

A further memorial event was also held on Tuesday evening (May 21) at Brierley Hill Civic Hall.

The event, open to family, friends and anyone who knew him, took the form of an evening of memories and those attending were invited to join in 'open mic' style sessions and share their memories of Steve.