THE family of a boy whose smile captured hearts across Calderdale were today marking what would have been his 13th birthday.
Jack Illand, from Sowerby, died suddenly in August, leaving his loved ones devastated.
He had been left quadriplegic, brain-damaged, unable to speak and with impaired vision after he was hit by a car while he rode his bike in Ovenden Road, Halifax, in 2005.
But his family said they had seen some improvement in his movement since he underwent pioneering stem-cell treatment in Mexico and he had started using his voice for the first time since the accident.
His death came out of the blue for them, and they will have to wait for the verdict of an inquest to find out why he died.
“It’s like he’s been taken twice from me,” said his mum, Linda.
“Sometimes I can’t believe he’s gone.”
Jack’s courage and cheeky smile touched many of those who met him, and his family say they were overwhelmed by the messages of sympathy that flooded in when he died. After the accident, his school – Lee Mount Primary – started a fund and people queued up with money-raising ideas
They eventually collected £17,000, which paid for the treatment in Mexico, which he underwent in 2008.
Linda said: “He was always happy and he had a brilliant sense of humour.
“He liked anything that was funny.
“Even if he was poorly, he would still have a smile for you.
“He went to Highbury School in Rastrick and was one of the most popular kids there and all the staff adored him.”
She said Jack loved being with his brother Harvey, seven, and sisters 10-year-old Bethany and six-year-old Elle-Mae.
All of them were trying to encourage him to speak in the weeks before he died.
“He used to say ‘Mama’. It was brilliant,” she said.
Tonight Jack’s loved ones are planning a celebration of his life, including setting off 13 lanterns in his memory.
“We just want to say happy birthday from us all,” said Linda.
They have also named two stars after Jack, and bought a telescope so they can look at them.
A collection at his funeral raised £283 which they plan to give to the neuro ward at Leeds General Infirmary where he was treated after his accident.
They are also planning to continue fund-raising for the hospital ward over the coming months.