THE COMMUNITY came out to remember the life of the "happiest little boy" this weekend.

As reported by the Star earlier this month, three-year-old James Junior Leyland tragically passed away in his sleep on Sunday, February 11, after being diagnosed with autism, epilepsy, and sleep apnoea.

James was also non-verbal, developmentally delayed, and a frequent visitor at hospital, but the three-year-old "never stopped smiling" despite the difficulties he faced.

After the tragedy of James' passing, the family has been overwhelmed with support as countless messages of condolence have been 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 balloon release and charity football game brought together dozens of people in James' honour this weekend.

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St Helens Star: James was described as the 'happiest little boy'James was described as the 'happiest little boy' (Image: Michelle Gormley)
James' mum Michelle, who was her son's full-time carer and was always pushing for more answers on his condition, said: "So many people turned up for the balloon release, with our family and friends there, nursery staff with T-shirts with his face on, and lots of people we didn't know.

"It's been overwhelming really because we've had so many messages and people knocking on our door and giving us gifts, or donating to the raffles and fundraiser online.

"It's so lovely to think that my son and his story have touched so many other people, it's amazing."

St Helens Star: Dozens of balloons were released in James' memoryDozens of balloons were released in James' memory (Image: Michelle Gormley)
With James' story pulling on the heartstrings of many people in the community, the Earlestown Athletic charity game brought together multiple teams from the younger age groups right up to Open Age and veterans teams.

There was also a bouncy castle for kids, people in fancy dress, as well as a raffle and food and drinks also on offer, while dozens more came to release balloons in James' memory close to the family home last week.

St Helens Star: A charity football event took place at Earlestown Athletic in James' memoryA charity football event took place at Earlestown Athletic in James' memory (Image: Michelle Gormley)
There will also be a fundraiser at Derbyshire Hill Family Centre will take place at 1pm on Sunday, March 3, which will contain a raffle and family activities, while further raffles have been taking place on social media for the family.

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. 

The fundraiser for James' family can be found here while a separate fundraiser from his nursery teacher, who will be running the St Helens 10k in his honour can be found here.