Brave Alex Herbert's first public appearance since undergoing a bone marrow transplant was to help raise awareness of the hospital and medical staff who saved his life.
The four-year-old spent eight weeks in Newcastle General Hospital's bubble unit after it was discovered he had been born with XLP, the same rare genetic disorder which claimed the life of his brother, Edward.
Since Alex arrived home from the isolation "bubble" in November, he has been the subject of a rigorous regime to reduce any chance of infection following the transplant, as well as a painful course of chemotherapy.
But his progress is such that many of those precautions, including a strict diet and the number of people he can come into contact with, have been relaxed.
He even hopes to start school within six months.
Watched by proud parents, Ian and Alyson, who live on a farm near Barnard Castle, County Durham, he proved his determination to make a full recovery by posing and smiling for photographs at the town's Teesdale Sports Centre.
Alex accepted a cheque for £1,000 from the Province of Durham Freemasons, on behalf of Newcastle General Hospital's Bubble Appeal.
The hospital is one of only two in England to provide the degree of specialist care needed by children undergoing bone marrow transplants.
Mrs Herbert, 36, who admitted to feeling nervous about Alex's first public outing, said: "He's been so brave and it has given us all hope. He knows how bravely his brother Edward fought, and he is determined to get through this.
"He even puts an arm around me when I get upset, and every night, before he goes to bed, he looks up at the sky from his bedroom window and says goodnight to Edward.
"We're all determined to overcome this and the help and support we have received has been overwhelming."
The family's ordeal began in April 2000 when Edward caught a virus which infected his bone marrow, later diagnosed as XLP, which attacks the immune system.
Despite two bone marrow transplants from Mr Herbert, 37, Edward died, aged seven, in June last year.
Although Alex was born with the same disorder, he received a bone marrow transplant from his other brother Michael, nine, who is free from XLP and was able to provide a perfect match.
Teesdale Sports Centre is also raising funds for The Bubble Appeal through the Channel Challenge.
The sponsored event encourages people to swim the equivalent of the Channel in the centre's swimming pool, and both Alex's mother and brother have signed up.
To support The Bubble Appeal, call Newcastle General Hospital on 0191-267 5761.
Originally published on Newsquest (www.newsquest.co.uk). Newsquest Media Group (A Gannett Company) © 2003.
Written by Richard Barker.