The family of a profoundly disabled man have paid tribute to a fighter who was always cheerful, after his death at the age of 23.

And they have expressed thanks to the people of Cumbria who they say helped to extend his life.

Robert Herrington, of Workington, was born with cerebral palsy and severe learning difficulties, and was unable to walk or talk.

As a child he had specialist therapy led by a Russian doctor in West Sussex, thanks to £60,000 worth of local fundraising.

Over several years, medical professionals and his family performed regular therapeutic treatment, helping to strengthen him.

People and businesses across Cumbria helped the family fund the therapy, and the travel to and from therapy sessions.

Fundraisers took on challenges from climbing Snowdon and abseiling down West Cumbria College to having their heads shaved.

Grandfather Kenny Wallace said: “People couldn’t do enough for him. Even people who didn’t know him, when they heard about him, they did what they could for him in fundraising. The local community were brilliant.”

Whitehaven News: Robert Herrington

The treatment improved Robert’s overall health, straightened his spine and enabled him to support his own head. Grandmother Pat Wallace said: “We’d see him every time getting better and better. Before the treatment he was very floppy. He couldn’t sit by himself.”

Eventually, he was able to sit unaided on a sofa, meaning he was not so restricted to his wheelchair.

His mum Alison Carr said: "Robert was always smiling. I wish to thank everyone, from the bottom of my heart, who helped my brave son."

Mum Alison has expressed her thanks to the community for helping Robert

Robert would always respond if spoken to.

Kenny said: “He’d react if you talked to him and he’d laugh. That was really his only way of communicating.”

Robert attended Mayfield School in Whitehaven for part of his childhood, and spent time being home schooled so he could have his therapy.

In recent years he lived at Briarfield care home in Stainburn.

Grandmother Pat Wallace said: “We honestly believe that we wouldn’t have had Robert for 23 years if he hadn't had the treatment. That was thanks to all these people's generosity.

“He was a real character. If anybody said ‘Robert’ he would look right away. It was a pleasure to be able to have him and look after him.”

Kenny added: “I think he liked to be with people. You could tell from his reactions. He used to like looking around, especially when other people were there. It was something to focus on.”

Robert enjoyed movement and light, spending many enjoyable hours with sensory lights. He liked going out and about, and enjoyed spending time in his grandparents garden.

Throughout his life, Robert faced challenges with his health. Kenny said: “He went through hell really. He’d had pneumonia. One of his lungs has collapsed. At least four times we were told he wasn’t going to survive but he always fought back. He was always smiling.

“Everybody who met him said he was a joy. He was always giggling. He had a lovely giggle.

“He touched everyone who met him.”

Robert spent last Christmas in hospital during a seven-month stay, but in recent months his general condition had improved.

But he became unwell and died in the early hours of Friday, November 16.

Kenny said: “For the last three months he had been really well for Robert, so he wasn’t suffering when he died.”

Whitehaven News: Robert Herrington

Robert will be much missed by all his family, including stepdad Paul and brother Daniel, 11.

His funeral will take place at St Michael’s Church in Workington at 10.30am on Tuesday, December 4, followed by cremation at Distington.

As he died on Children in Need day, his family have bought a onesie in aid of the appeal, which he will be dressed in for his funeral.

Donations in his memory can be made to Eden Valley Hospice, where Robert spent time on respite, c/o Co-operative Funeralcare in Workington.