A TOWN came together to say goodbye to a “shining star” who brought love and laughter to all who knew him during his tragically short life.

Hundreds donned red to pay tribute to eight-year-old Mark Hammond, the little boy whose bright smile touched the hearts of people across the country.

The Northern Echo: ALWAYS SMILING: Mark Hammond, eight, from Branksome in Darlington

The youngster, pictured above, who passed away recently following a long and brave battle with cancer, was buried in a coffin shaped as a treasure chest after a VW camper van transported him to Darlington’s Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on Friday.

Family members led a moving service that celebrated and reflected upon Mark’s lively and loving personality.

His great-uncle Jared Dore gave a poignant speech and urged those present to make the most of the time they have left, in honour of the little boy. He shared anecdotes about the Branksome child, saying he had loved to make lists of things that he loved, places he would like to go and things he wanted to do.

Mr Dore urged others to take a leaf out of Mark’s book and live life to the fullest as he remembered his great-nephew with fondness.

He paid tribute to the unwavering strength of Mark’s parents, Hannah and Dean Hammond, and thanked the community for their support throughout the family’s battle with cancer.

Mr Dore said: “We are united in celebration of little Mark’s life and in celebration of everything he achieved in that short time.

“Mark was a shining star that shone so brightly for the people touched by his love and his smile throughout the country.

“He was a young boy who was six when he unexpectedly fell ill and his parents had no preparation, the way that they all faced this challenge was inspiring.

“Despite the heartache and pain, there was so much courage and love.”

Mr Dore added: “It has never failed to amaze and humble me how much support the community in this area gave.

“The efforts that were made in a world full of tragedy have shown human spirit which is full of love and care.”

Phillip Hammond, brought mourners to tears as he shared a touching poem penned in Mark’s honour. He said: “The day he died our hearts were broken in two, half for the good times and half that died with you.”

Mark’s order of service included a list of his favourite things, including snow leopards, Manchester United and great-grandma’s egg on toast.

  • The Northern Echo attended Mark's funeral with permission from his family.