WATCH: Little Liam is walking tall - thanks to you!

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COURAGEOUS Liam Straughan is getting stronger every day – after a life-changing op, thanks to the Echo.

The seven-year-old, who suffers from cerebral palsy, can walk without the use of a frame, and has ridden a bike for the first time in his life.

HAPPY DAYS: Liam Straughan, seven, with his sister Jessica, three, and his mum Rachel and dad Neil.

HAPPY DAYS: Liam Straughan, seven, with his sister Jessica, three, and his mum Rachel and dad Neil.

It’s fantastic news for his proud parents Neil, 40, and Rachel, 35, who say “he’s doing really well”.

All this comes just a year after Liam, from Houghton, went into Leeds General Hospital for surgery called selective dorsal rhizotomy. The five-hour operation involved surgeons cutting the nerves in his spine to free the tension in his legs.

NHS funding for the operation was refused, so Neil and Rachel started trying to raise the £25,000 needed for the operation, and £5,000 for rehabilitation after it.

Thanks to an Echo campaign, which ran in July last year, readers helped to smash the target in less than a week, with one anonymous donor making a £20,000 donation.

Liam Straughan.

Liam Straughan.

Rachel said: “Liam would not be where he is today without all our unbelievably kind and supportive family, friends and the huge anonymous donation of £20,000.”

Since his return from the hospital, the boy – who was at risk of needing a wheelchair by the time he was a teenager – is making fantastic progress.

Rachel praised the work of the therapy team at Neural Pathways at Felling, saying: “They have transformed Liam’s mobility and strength, and without their support he wouldn’t be doing many of the things he can do today.

“He never complains about anything and he is doing really well now. We are a year on from the operation and he is really good.

“He does not rely on his walking frame for short distance walking. He is getting stronger each week.

“We have got him a bike and he can ride it with the stabilisers on. He wasn’t strong enough to do that before.

“It is all these little things that have changed for Liam.”

Today, he becomes the first person to be nominated for our Best of Wearside Awards and will be a contender in the Child of Courage category.

Rachel said: “That’s great. He is a real little star.”

Liam had to use a walking frame and wore leg splints after being born 10 weeks early, causing him to develop the debilitating condition cerebral palsy.

He couldn’t play football or do what he most wanted to – run like his friends.

But now, he only uses his walking frame if he needs to walk long distances.