The mother of little Blake Barley gave an emotional thank you to Dereham residents before the three-year-old turned on the town’s Christmas lights tonight.

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Blake, of Toftwood, is being flown to America for life-changing surgery helping him to walk unaided after more than £50,000 was raised in just 15 weeks.

Debbie Barley said to the crowd: “We have has so much support from the Dereham community. All the help you have done has made huge difference, not just for Blake but for the whole family. We have been humbled and overwhelmed and are proud to be part of this community, We as a family say thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Before switching on the lights, the three-year-old said to the large crowd happy Christmas.

Joining him and his mother on stage was his father, Luke, and his brother Bryce, aged seven, sister Beth, aged nine, Dereham mayor Michael Fanthorpe, deputy mayor Linda Monument and rector of Dereham the rev Sally Theakston.

Thousands of people came to Dereham for the event, organised by the town council, which included a lively performance from the 63-strong Dereham Town Singers, music from the Dereham Town Band, professional singer Keely Rayner, Santa’s grotto and fairground rides.

Mr Fanthorpe told the eager audience: “You are lucky to live in the magnificent town of Dereham. Tonight is a good opportunity to say thank you for coming, you are a great asset to the town.”

He added that Blake was a “darling little boy” and described people from Dereham as compassionate, sympathetic and first class, for supporting the three-year-old.

Mrs Monument added: “I think this year’s event has been the best one ever. It is lovely to see the carol singers and it is nice for Blake’s family to here to be able to say thank you. It has been a wonderful.”

Graham Boulter, director of the Dereham Town Singers, added: “Our performance went down incredibly well. It is absolutely buzzing tonight.”

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