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Hundreds Turn Out For James Delorey's Funeral

James Delorey's dog, Chance, sits in the front passenger seat of the hearse carrying the boy's casket to church on Monday. (CBC)
James Delorey's dog, Chance, sits in the front passenger seat of the hearse carrying the boy's casket to church on Monday. (CBC)

From CBCNews

Hundreds of people — many of them strangers — gathered Monday in Sydney, Nova Scotia, for the funeral of a seven-year-old Cape Breton boy who died after wandering away from his home just before a snowstorm.

Mourners began arriving more than an hour before James Delorey’s funeral began at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church on Monday afternoon.

Some people said they had never met James or his family but were touched by his story, saddened by his death and wanted to say goodbye.

“It’s very heartbreaking. It’s a little boy, seven years old. You know, he took a part of everybody’s hearts,” said Yvonne Simmons, who went to school with James’s mother. “There was a lot of hope for a bit, there was a little Christmas miracle, but God decided to take him home.”

An honour guard of several dozen police officers, firefighters, paramedics and ground search crews lined the church steps and stood at attention as pallbearers carried the casket of the little boy into the church.

The boy’s dog, Chance, was led into the church behind the casket. Chance sat in the front passenger seat of the hearse and could be seen poking his head out the window as the funeral procession made its way through the neighbourhood.

James, who had autism and did not speak, went missing on Dec. 5 after following Chance into the woods.

Frantic search

Hundreds of volunteers and search and rescue crew members descended on South Bar, near Sydney, to look for the boy during the snowstorm that began shortly after his disappearance.

Chance returned to the family home two days later, sparking renewed hope in the search for James. As one team of searchers followed Chance’s tracks back into the woods, another team working from the opposite direction found James.

He was huddled in the fetal position in an area of thick brush and snow about a kilometre from his home. Unconscious and suffering from severe hypothermia, he died early the next day after he was rushed to the IWK Health Centre in Halifax in critical condition.

There was an imprint in the snow next to where James was found, where Chance had apparently huddled with the boy to keep him warm.

At the funeral, Rev. Errol MacDonald commented on the massive search effort for James and outpouring of emotion after his death.

“This is the busiest time of the year. Everyone is caught up with their own agendas,” MacDonald said.

“Yet, in the past week, everyone stopped. And in that stopping they found the true meaning of Christmas — that a child would give us hope.”

Kyte Power, who turned out in the terrible weather to help in the search, recalled the day he and his wife heard of James’s disappearance.

“We got up in the morning, my wife and I, and actually we had planned to decorate our tree. And we said there’s no way we could decorate a tree knowing that there’s a little boy out there,” he said.

As the funeral ended, the people who helped in the search slowly circled the small casket heaped with white flowers.

An emotional Paul Vienneau, the search commander for Cape Breton Search and Rescue, could barely speak as he described the funeral as “very sombre, very heartbreaking.”

“I believe there was a miracle, yes. There was a miracle and then … he became a Christmas angel.”

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