Kirsty Howard meets David Cameron
Samantha and David Cameron meet Kirsty Howard the courageous fundraiser who changed the lives of "hundreds of children"

Kirsty Howard the inspirational fundraiser who accompanied England international David Beckham at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester has died at the age of 20. She was born with a rare heart defect that took her life at 01:38 BST surrounded by her family in hospital.

Her parents along with sisters Zoe and Kim were at Kirsty's bedside at Manchester Royal Infirmary when she died. She was studying childcare at college prior to her death just a month after she had celebrated her 20th birthday and had planned to become a teacher.

Howard was the only British child born with a back-to-front heart. There were only two cases of the condition worldwide. She received worldwide recognition when she accompanied Beckham prior to England's crucial World Cup qualifier against Greece in 2001, when Beckham dominated the match and almost single-handedly sealed England's place in the tournament.

She went on to win the Child of Courage Award at the Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards in the same year and also raised £7.5m for Manchester's Francis House Children's Hospice through her charity the Kirsty Club.

Earlier this month showbusiness stars had called on the Queen to bestow an honour on Howard. Opera singer Russell Watson backed the campaign and said that there couldn't be anyone "more deserving of the OBE than Kirsty".

Francis House wrote on its official Twitter page: "Our deepest condolences to Kirsty's family."

In a statement on its website it said: "Kirsty made a huge impact as a fundraiser for Francis House, raising over £7.5m for the Manchester based children's hospice where she received respite from 3 ½ years of age. Despite being born with a rare heart and lung condition, and given only six weeks to live, Kirsty endured many operations and inspired countless people with her bravery and determination.We cannot express enough our humble thanks and gratitude to an incredible young woman."

Anthony Cotton who plays barman Sean Tully in Coronation Street wrote on Twitter: "Just heard the news about Kirsty Howard, Manchester's most precious daughter. It was a privilege to have known her."

David Ireland, chief executive of Francis House, added: "Hundreds of children, young people and their families owe a tremendous debt to the young lady whose face made Francis House a household name."