This is Riley’s story
Riley Plant was diagnosed with a rare and incurable brain tumour in April, leading to the Smiley Riley Fund being set up to raise money towards a dream Disney holiday for the “little star” and his family.
His fight against the grade-four atypical teratoid rhabdoid tumour (AT/RT) led to donations spiralling to more than £23,000 – four times the original target.
But in July, cancer cells were discovered during an operation to remove fluid from Riley’s brain, and he was given only weeks to live.
Following the heartbreaking news, Riley’s parents, Gavin, 24, and Lindsay, 25, brought their wedding forward to July 22 so Riley could be there as a page boy. He passed away at home on Friday evening – the day his parents originally planned to marry – aged just 21 months.
Gavin, of Burnholme, said: “It was as if he knew it was a significant day and he had chosen his time to go.”
Although Riley’s worsening health meant he, his parents and his sisters Ebony and Kelsy could not visit Disneyworld, they enjoyed several breaks at UK holiday sites in the last weeks of his life.
“It meant the world to be able to do so much with Riley, and the memories we have from those holidays – such as him dancing around in his pushchair – are the memories we always wanted to have,” said Gavin, who serves with the Royal Signals and was due to go on a reserve list for deployment to Afghanistan later this year before Riley became ill.
“We wanted to remember Riley as the happy, smiling, dancing little boy he was, and we always will.
“He only had a short time with us, but he shone a light on our lives which will last a lifetime.
“From day one, he was just a little star, a real character and so brave – he was amazing.”
Riley’s condition deteriorated in the days before his death, and Gavin said: “It became real and we had to accept what was coming.
“When he passed away, it was peaceful and Lindsay and I were there. I think Riley knew exactly when he wanted to go.”
Hundreds of sympathy messages have been posted on the Smiley Riley Fund’s facebook page over the weekend, with his grandmother Simone Potter paying tribute to “the most courageous, beautiful and inspirational little boy I have ever had the privilege to have in my life”.
Gavin said: “As well as our families, Lindsay and I want to thank everybody who has been involved with the fund, donated money or has just read about Riley and sent messages of support.
“It has been overwhelming. It shows how he touched people.
“But what we discovered from Riley being in hospital was how many children are in a similar situation, suffering from cancer, without people knowing their stories. You don’t realise just how many there are, and it shows how much donations and support are needed to ensure something can be done for them.”