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Star's friend Jo dies at 25

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A young Shropshire woman who captured the hearts of millions of television viewers and helped win transplant rights for people with disabilities has died. A young Shropshire woman who captured the hearts of millions of television viewers and helped win transplant rights for people with disabilities has died. Joanne Harris, 25, of Shrewsbury, became a national celebrity when family friend Craig Phillips donated the prize money from winning the first Big Brother to her to fund a heart and lung transplant. It had been feared she would have to travel to the US for treatment. Jo, who refused to let her Down's Syndrome get in the way of enjoying an ordinary life, fell ill with an infection last month and lost her fight for life in hospital in Birmingham last week. Check out our photo gallery below Read the full story in today's Shropshire Star and leave your tributes to Jo in the comments box below

Joanne Harris and Craig Phillips cut into his birthday cakeA young Shropshire woman who captured the hearts of millions of television viewers and helped win transplant rights for people with disabilities has died.

Joanne Harris, 25, of Shrewsbury, became a national celebrity when family friend Craig Phillips donated the prize money from winning the first Big Brother to her to fund a heart and lung transplant.

camera_ss4.gifCheck out our photo gallery below and leave your tributes to Jo in the comments box

It had been feared she would have to travel to the US for treatment.

Jo, who refused to let her Down's Syndrome get in the way of enjoying an ordinary life, fell ill with an infection last month and lost her fight for life in hospital in Birmingham last week.

Despite her disability she attended mainstream schools and college, joined the Brownies, won medals for dancing and trained to be a hairdresser.

Her plight prompted a Government minister to pledge that disabled people should not face discrimination if they needed a transplant and she was put on the NHS transplant waiting list.

Her devastated parents Marion and Michael said Jo contracted an infection, leading to complications.

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They said she was a true ambassador for people with Down's Syndrome. Mrs Harris said: "She brought so much joy to so many people and did so much to show that people with disabilities can lead very full lives."

Her father said despite the family being told Jo may never walk, she learned to ride a bicycle by the age of six and attended school.

She loved dancing and drama and had been due to take part in a drama production at the London Road Drama Group next month.

"What is so difficult to bear is that she had been so well up until last month," said Mrs Harris.

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After a cold in March, Jo was admitted to the Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and then to hospital in Birmingham. Her parents praised staff at both hospitals for their care.

Jo hit the headlines when Craig Phillips won Big Brother and in an emotional reunion with Jo outside, revealed he was giving her his winnings. He had known Jo since a baby and visited her in hospital two weeks ago, Mrs Harris said.

Mr Phillips could not be contacted for comment. His agent said the presenter was out of the country.

Jo attended Greenacres Primary School, The Priory and Radbrook College in addition to going to Abbots Wood Day Centre in Shrewsbury.Today staff at the schools she attended paid tribute to Jo, and spoke of their sadness at her death.

Nicky Hey, headteacher at Greenacres Primary School, taught Joanne for a short time at the school.

Today Mrs Hey said: "Jo was a cheerful and lively little girl with a keen sense of humour and our thoughts are with her family at this time."

Big Brother winner Craig Phillips with JoanneStaff at The Priory School in Shrewsbury also spoke off their fond memories of Jo.

Mary Massey, assistant headteacher at the school, said: "Jo is remembered with great affection by teaching and support staff at The Priory School.

"She enjoyed her time at school and believed in living life to the full, participating in many school activities - notably the school Arts Eisteddfod, where she displayed her love of music and dancing.

"She also enjoyed visits out, especially the residential trip in Year Seven.

"Jo was popular with her peers and staff for her friendliness and ready smile."

A spokesman for Radbrook College said: "We're very sorry to hear that Joanne died and it does bring back memories of the very generous occasion when Craig Phillips was kind enough to donate the money for her care.

"It gave people a sense that there's still compassion and caring in the world and it was a lovely thing to do."

Joanne Harris and Craig Phillips cut into his birthday cakeJoanne Harris and Craig Phillips cut into his birthday cake.

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Joanne Harris became a national celebrity after Craig Phillips' win.Joanne Harris became a national celebrity after Craig Phillips' win.

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Joanne with Tina Turner at Wembley ArenaJoanne with Tina Turner at Wembley Arena.

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Craig Phillips is greeted by Joanne after leaving the Big Brother House.Craig Phillips is greeted by Jo after leaving the Big Brother House.

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Jo with her mother Marion Harris.Jo with her mother Marion Harris.

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Jo Harris reads of Craig Phillips' Big Brother win.Jo Harris reads of Craig Phillips' Big Brother win.

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Jo playing the guitar.Jo playing the guitar.

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Big Brother winner Craig Phillips with Jo.Big Brother winner Craig Phillips with Jo.

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