DESPITE a wet and windy morning, the sun and a rainbow came out to shine as a three-year-old "miracle boy" was laid to rest last week.

In a story that tugged on the heartstrings of Star readers, three-year-old James Junior Leyland passed away in his sleep on Sunday, February 11, after being born with a range of complex needs.

James was dealt a tough card in life as he was diagnosed with autism, epilepsy, and sleep apnoea, and was also non-verbal and developmentally delayed.

This meant that the youngster was a frequent visitor at hospital throughout his short life, but he was described as a "miracle boy" because he "never stopped smiling" despite the difficulties he faced.

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St Helens Star: James tragically passed away in his sleep in FebruaryJames tragically passed away in his sleep in February (Image: Michelle Gormley)
After the tragedy of James' passing, his family say they were overwhelmed with support as countless messages of condolence were sent their way.

Multiple fundraisers were also organised to support the family including an online crowdfunder, social media raffles, a charity football game, and a family-fun day at Derbyshire Hill family centre.

In total, the fundraising raised more than £7,500 and much of this was spent on the three-year-old's bright and colourful funeral to give him the "send-off he deserved".

St Helens Star: James was described as the 'happiest little boy' from those who knew himJames was described as the 'happiest little boy' from those who knew him (Image: Michelle Gormley)
With James' funeral taking place at Greenacres cemetery in Rainford on Friday, March 15, there was a "huge turnout" as the three-year-old travelled in a grand horse and carriage.

His coffin was decorated in bright colours to celebrate his autism diagnosis, with attendees of the funeral also asked to wear bright colours to remember James and his condition.

St Helens Star: James' funeral and wake were decorated with colour to celebrate his autism diagnosisJames' funeral and wake were decorated with colour to celebrate his autism diagnosis (Image: Michelle Gormley)
Speaking about the funeral and the support the family has received, James' mum Michelle Gormley said: "It was raining in the morning of the funeral and I was a little bit upset, but when James' carriage came past, the sun started to break out and there was a rainbow shining through, which made me cry because he was our little rainbow boy.

"There was such a huge turnout that we had to open the back room at Greenacres to accommodate everyone and it just felt perfect in the end, we couldn't have asked for anything more.

"Everyone was wearing bright colours to celebrate James' autism because that was who he was and we were so proud of him. We also hope we have helped raise awareness of his condition as families have contacted us for support about this.

"I'm just so thankful to everyone who came along and supported us, including Garvey and Young funeral directors who did everything they could to support us.

"And we wouldn't have been able to do all of this if it wasn't for all of the support and fundraising so we are very grateful that we got to give James the send-off he deserved."

Following James' passing, Michelle and her partner Wayne said they are looking to launch a charity in his honour, named 'James' Smile', which will support families of children with complex needs.