MORE than 200 people released colourful balloons into the sky to celebrate the short life of Nicholas Robinson, who lost his brave battle against a rare brain disease.

The three-year-old had suffered from Alper's for just under two years and was left unable to walk, talk or feed himself despite having been born a happy, healthy baby.

At his funeral last Friday, Nicholas' mum Stefanie, 25, of Beech Street, Great Harwood, led mourners to the green opposite her home and said: "Let these little balloons of happiness spread the love of Nicholas."

The funeral, which was held at St Bartholomew's Church, was a service of thanksgiving for his short life and everyone was asked to wear bright clothes and bring along colourful helium balloons.

His little coffin featured a picture of a steam train - he loved trains and called them "choo choos'' - and was carried from his home to the church by four family members including grandad John and uncle Andrew.

As the coffin was brought into the brightly decorated church, an organist played The Wheels on the Bus and Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush.

The Rev Sandra Purvis, who conducted the service, said it was a "wonderful sight" to see all the balloons inside the church.

Nicholas' uncle Andrew paid tribute to his nephew. He said: "Nicholas always wanted to be the centre of attention and he's got his own way again.

"He was not an ordinary boy, he saw the best in everything. He was an explorer and everything was a mystery to him. Nicholas was always the head of the Robinson household and my mother used to say that he would be Prime Minister one day.

"There isn't a person in this church that Nicholas didn't affect or who failed to fall under his magnetic charm. His illness was just another challenge for him to overcome.

"He was brave through it all, fighting with all the strength in his body, but we shouldn't dwell on his illness, we live in thankfulness that he was here.

"They say it's the brightest stars that fade first but death is simply the shedding of the physical body like a butterfly shedding its cocoon. What is the end for the caterpillar is the beginning for the butterfly.

"I have never seen a child that was loved as much as Nicholas and if love could have saved him, he would have lived forever and he will live forever, in our hearts."

Stefanie read the Henry Scott Holland poem, All is Well, and hymns at the service included All Things Bright and Beautiful and Nicholas' favourite, Shine Jesus Shine, which the congregation was invited to clap along to.

As the coffin left the church, the tune Love is a Song that Never Ends, from Disney's Bambi was played before the balloons were released outside.

Nicholas' body was then taken to Accrington for cremation.

An appeal set up to help Nicholas will continue to raise money in his memory in aid of Derian House and the Rainbow Trust. To donate, visit the website .