Meet the brave young hero who smiles through his health battle - and he’s just 5

South Tyneside Child of Courage Award nominee, Toby Horner, 5.
South Tyneside Child of Courage Award nominee, Toby Horner, 5.

Meet Toby Horner - a brave little boy who never stops smiling despite battling a string of health issues.

The five-year-old from Hebburn has a complex mixed form of cerebral palsy and faces the first of many operations in his life later this year.

Toby Horner with his brothers Lucas, 18 months and Ethan, 3.

Toby Horner with his brothers Lucas, 18 months and Ethan, 3.

But his family have hailed him as “caring and loving and a real hero to everyone that knows him.”

Toby’s fantastic outlook on life has put him in the running for a Best of South Tyneside Award in the Child of Courage category.

Mum Tracey Horner, 34, said: “His whole life so far works around therapies and daily care but he does it all with a smile on his face. He has a very silly sense of humour and loves to laugh. He is caring and loving and a real hero to everyone that knows him. Everyone that meets him loves him instantly.”

He’s a wonderful big brother to Ethan, 3, and eight-month-old Lucas, while mum Tracey and dad Adam, 34, could not be more proud, said Tracey.

His whole life so far works around therapies and daily care but he does it all with a smile on his face. He has a very silly sense of humour and loves to laugh. He is caring and loving and a real hero to everyone that knows him. Everyone that meets him loves him instantly

Tracey Horner

She described how, after a healthy and natural labour, Toby suffered “an acute hypoxic injury. This meant his brain was starved of oxygen and he suffered moderate brain damage.

“Due to this he now has a complex mixed form a cerebral palsy. He can’t stand or walk but crawls ‘bunny hops’ for independent movement around the house. This is something he only had the strength to do a year ago.

“He needs his liquids thickened and food pureed due to an unsafe swallow, and he has unco-ordinated movements in his upper body making fine motor very difficult. Due to his whole body being affected he also has very unclear speech.”

Tracey said Toby’s treatment regime includes;

Toby Horner with  mum and dad Tracey and Adam Horner.

Toby Horner with mum and dad Tracey and Adam Horner.

l Physiotherapy every day.

l Speech and language therapy every day.

l Hydrotherapy every week.

l Twice-a-year treatments from a neurologist.

All the family together. Toby is pictured with mum and dad Tracey and Adam Horner, as well as brothers Lucas, 18 months and Ethan, 3.

All the family together. Toby is pictured with mum and dad Tracey and Adam Horner, as well as brothers Lucas, 18 months and Ethan, 3.

l And twice-a-year treatments from a paediatrician.

Mum added: “He is due his first big surgery on his legs towards the end of the year and sadly this will be the first of many throughout his life.”

Toby, who attends Percy Hedley School in Killingworth, will need an operation to cut the tendons in the backs of his legs to help lengthen the muscles. He will also be in a cast.

Tracey added: “It is going to be uncomfortable for him and it will mean a large amount of therapy to get him standing again.”

But this is just the first in a series of operations that his family believe he will face.

“His left hip is coming out of its socket and it is very likely he is going to need an operation on his left hip,” Tracey added.

Toby Horner is full of smiles for the photographer. He's pictured centre along with mum and dad Tracey and Adam Horner, and brothersLucas, 18 months and Ethan, 3.

Toby Horner is full of smiles for the photographer. He's pictured centre along with mum and dad Tracey and Adam Horner, and brothersLucas, 18 months and Ethan, 3.

“And there’s probably going to be lengthening surgery on his leg as well.”

But Toby remains “a happy smiling person,” said his proud mum. “It doesn’t matter who he meets. They fall in love with him straight away.”

How to nominate

Is there a role model, a carer, or a child, who you think shows incredible courage? Do you want to honour a community stalwart who goes the extra mile to help others without asking for acknowledgement?

Is there a child of achievement who has gone that extra length to achieve their targets?

Or is there a young stage star who would deserve to win the Young Performer of the Year category?

We are calling on you to put forward nominations for everything from sports team of the year to entrepreneur of the year, and community group to fundraiser.

This year, the grand finale will be held at the Roker Hotel, where we will be revealing the winners on Wednesday, September 19.

It promises to be a fantastic occasion and we can look forward to it with the backing of a string of fantastic sponsors.

The Best of South Tyneside awards, this year, have the backing of Barbour; Harlow Printing Limited; JML; BT South Tyneside; Northumbrian Water and the Customs House.

To nominate please send us the full name, phone number and email address, of the person you wish to nominate and the category you want to nominate them for, along with a brief description of why they are worthy of an award.

And if you are submitting an entry in the Young Performer category, send us a video of them performing.

Send your entries by email to: lynn.wild@jpress.co.uk or posted to: Lynn Wild, Alexander House, Second Floor, Rainton Bridge Business Park, Houghton-le-Spring, Sunderland, DH4 5RA.

The categories

Role Model.

Neighbour of the Year.

Greener South Tyneside.

Child of Achievement.

Fundraiser of the Year.

Entrepreneur of the Year.

Carer of the Year.

Sporting Excellence.

Sports Team of the Year/Young Sportsperson of the Year.

Community Champion.

Student of the Year.

Community Group.

Volunteer of the Year.

Child of Courage.

Young Performer of the Year.

Lifetime Contribution.

South Tyneside Child of Courage Award nominee, Toby Horner, 5.

South Tyneside Child of Courage Award nominee, Toby Horner, 5.