The people of Corby have been thanked for their amazing support for a young man who lived life to the full.
James McIlroy first appeared on the front page of this newspaper back in 1997 after being diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy aged nine.
People in Corby as well as family and friends further afield rallied round to raise the £10,000 needed to get James to Disneyland.
Despite not being expected to live beyond his late teens, he went on to reach the age of 29 and was planning to have a party for his 30th to thank everyone for their support.
Sadly James did not live to say thank you himself so his family are doing it on his behalf.
Mum Jacqueline Burns of Corby said: “So many people did so much above and beyond getting him to Disneyland so he wanted people to know that.
“We thank them for their help.
“They helped buy him a specialist bed and through the fundraising he got his first electric wheelchair.
“Through the fundraising, they enabled him to have a far better quality of life.
“As he was getting older, he was becoming all the more aware of what the people of Corby and everyone else had done, he was very grateful for that.
“He was never meant to reach 20, the diagnosis was 17 or 18.
“He just wanted to say to all these good people that he was still here.”
James, who went to Isebrook School in Kettering and Corby Community College, died peacefully at home and his funeral was held at the Church of Christ in Beanfield Avenue, Corby, on Monday.
He planned the funeral himself, and chose songs including The Prodigy’s Firestarter as well as having a piper play Flower Of Scotland.
Jacqueline said: “He was a great big brother, a great little brother, and a great friend to all.
“His illness just stripped him of absolutely everything for a boy who used to run around playing football, he was just left with his hands to use.
“When he was nine he got to be the Rangers mascot, that was his dream come true.
“He never really wore anything except his Rangers shirt.”
James requested that family and friends wore Rangers shirts and scarves for his funeral, including those who support Celtic.
His mum added: “James was born in Kettering but he was fiercely Scottish, he was proud of his Scottish heritage.”
James had two sisters, Lindsey and Abbie.
Lindsey said he never complained about his situation and added: “He always had a cheeky smile.”
Jacqueline knew James wanted to thank people for their support so it was their duty to do it for ‘our Braveheart.’
She said: “He lived the bit of life that he had to the absolute full.
“He loved Corby and the people of Corby, there’s nowhere like Corby.”
She said James had a great sense of humour, a strong faith in God and was passionate about the inequalities of the world.
He also loved music, including going to Download festival nine times.
Looking back, Jacqueline recalled: “He went to Disneyland in 1998 and there were so many that helped.
“Corby just did so much and he wanted people to know.
“It was thousands that people raised.
“The target was £10,000 to send him to Disneyland and that was completely smashed and it went well over.
“If you sit here and look back, it’s just unbelievable.
“No normal family could do that, but we could because of the people of Corby, Bristol, Glasgow and Northern Ireland.
“Even if it was 50p from a little kid to £500 from a club or an organisation, it all made a difference for his life.”
It is hoped that the jam night James was planning for his 30th may still go ahead next year and the organisers may be able to support four-year-old Passion who was born premature with spastic diplegia get to Disneyland, Florida, just like James did.
Speaking before his death, James said: “The people of Corby got me there so I am going to get her there.”
To read more about Passion, click here