Padiham unites to say goodbye to a 'special and unique little girl'
'A special and unique little girl who gave a lifetime of love in 10 years.'
That was just one of the moving tributes paid to Padiham schoolgirl Tia Taggart at her funeral today.
Around 300 people gathered for the mass at St John the Baptist RC Church in Padiham to say a final goodbye to Tia, whose bravery, courage and resilience as she battled cancer, had captured hearts across the world.
Padiham firefighters formed a guard of honour at the entrance to the church as Tia's tiny white coffin, which was decorated with unicorns, arrived for the ceremony.
The Rev Damien Louden described how Tia had united the community of Padiham with her Jet Set Angels that began as a class project at her school, St John's RC Primary, and blossomed from there.
Starting originally as a project to raise money to help Tia's family after she was diagnosed with cancer, the project to make little key-ring angels took off and there are now 30,000 of them across seven continents.
And Tia and her classmates have raised thousands of pounds for the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital, where she was treated.
Rev Louden said: "Tia was a wonderful, graceful little girl who had a brief but beautiful life. The quality of life is not measured by the clock and it has become very clear how special she was and how she set an example for us all to live our lives.
"It is also clear that Tia united a community together in such a positive way and that is something that will continue."
Tia underwent treatment at the Royal Manchester Children's Hospital after she was first diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer called Ewing Sarcoma. She had tumours in her pelvis and legs and had to undergo rounds of radiotherapy to treat her bone and lung cancers.
But the youngster remained positive and resilient throughout her illness which her headteacher Mrs Kathleen McKeating said she had an 'unquestioned acceptance' of.
Paying tribute to Tia, Mrs McKeating said: "Tia was a model pupil and she loved school.
"After treatment she would always request to pop back into school and she would appear with that beaming smile that was always on her face.
"Her courage, bravery and resilience was inspirational to so many people. I like to think that Tia helped me to become a better headteacher."
Teacher Mrs Carol Carlile said that Tia loved her celebrity status after the Jet Set Angels attracted media attention.
Mrs Carlile told the congregation: "Tia could give a speech off the top of her head, being in the spotlight did not phase her and on one day when she was feeling a bit down about having to go for treatment she soon cheered her up when she saw her picture in the newspaper.
"She was a selfless little girl who was determined to help others, despite what she was going through herself."
Doctors who cared for Tia were at the funeral along with Macmillan Nurses who helped her parents, Lee and Gillian, to care for her at home.
During the service several gifts were donated to Tia's family, including a memory book and collection of photographs made by Tia's classmates, a bravery award presented to her by Padiham firefighters and the map of the world charting the destinations of the Jet Set Angels.
To mark her 10th birthday, just days before she died, Tia received over 3,000 cards from well wishers around the world and these are being made into a lasting tribute to remember her by.
There was a collection box in church for Derian House children's hospice who helped Tia's family to look after her.
And any donations can still be made through the funeral directors, Alderson and Horan in Rossendale Road, Burnley.
The funeral was followed by a private cremation and celebration of Tia's life.