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Funeral for Gillingham tot Willow Bate who was struck down by meningitis

Tragic toddler Willow Bate, from Gillingham, died from meningitisFamily and friends have gathered to say an emotional farewell to baby Willow Bate who died suddenly from meningitis.

The 15-month-old tot passed away within hours of being struck down by the cruel disease at the family home in Gillingham.

Her dad Nick Bate was among the pallbearers who led her tiny wicker casket into the chapel at the Garden of England Crematorium, Bobbing, today.

Her coffin, bearing her much-loved teddy, was led in to the strains of Eric Clapton’s Tears in Heaven as Nick joined mum Ruth, 31, and Willow’s three-year-old brother, Zak.

Music from her favourite CBeebies programme the Cloudbabies was played and, fittingly, mourners filed out to Little Willow by Paul McCartney.

Nick, 36, is a firefighter based at Strood and many of his colleagues came along to pay their respects.

The day Willow died, her mum launched a fundraising campaign to raise money for Meningitis UK which researches into vaccines to fight the illness.

Within days the fund had topped £2,400 and it has now reached more than £5,000.

To make a donation, go to www.justgiving.com/ruthflaxman

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