THE support for a "beautiful little boy" who passed away in his sleep has been "overwhelming" as a charity football match is set to take place in his memory this weekend.

In a story published on the front page of this week's Star, we reported how three-year-old James Junior Leyland tragically passed away on Sunday, February 11.

James, who was autistic, non-verbal, epileptic, developmentally delayed, and a sufferer of sleep apnoea, was described as being the family's "miracle boy" who "always had a smile on his face" despite the issues he was facing.

With James' death devastating his family, mum Michelle said she is overwhelmed at the outpouring of love and support shown to the family, with countless messages of condolence sent their way.

A fundraiser set up to give James to "send off he deserves" has also smashed through its initial target to raise more than £3,500 for the family, while a charity football game is set to take place in James' honour this weekend.

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St Helens Star: James with his two older sistersJames with his two older sisters (Image: Michelle Gormley)
The charity event, set to take place at Earlestown Athletic FC's Hive football ground on Sunday, February 25, will involve multiple teams from the younger age groups right up to Open Age and veterans teams, who will each pay a small fee towards the fundraiser.

There will also be a bouncy castle for kids, people in fancy dress, as well as a raffle and food and drinks on offer to show support for James' family and try to raise as much money as possible.

The charity game has been set up by Brian Law, who is a coach at Earlestown and is related to James' family through his wife Rachael.

St Helens Star: James was described as the happiest little boy who was the life and soul of the familyJames was described as the happiest little boy who was the life and soul of the family (Image: Michelle Gormley)
Speaking about James and the charity game, Brian said: "The support we have had for this charity game has been amazing.

"It's such a tragic story and I think it has really tugged on people's heartstrings because everyone seems to want to get involved and help out.

"Whenever I met James he was always smiling, he was just a beautiful little boy.

"We see ourselves as a community club at Earlestown so we're really happy to be bringing people together in support of the family, and the event is open to the whole community."

St Helens Star: James' family say they are overwhelmed with the love and support shownJames' family say they are overwhelmed with the love and support shown (Image: Michelle Gormley)
As well as donating to the fundraiser, family and friends have also created their own raffles online to help support James' family through the difficult time. You can donate to the fundraiser for James here.

There will also be a fundraiser at Derbyshire Hill Family Centre will take place at 1pm on Sunday, March 3, while the charity football match will take place at the Hive on Sunday, February 25 at 2pm.

A balloon release in memory of James will also take place at 6pm on Thursday, February 24, close to Michelle's home on Micminnis Avenue in Parr.

James’s funeral will be on Friday, March 15 at 11.30am at Greenacres in Rainford, with guests asked to wear bright colours in honour of the three-year-old and his autism diagnosis.