FIVE-YEAR-OLD Leo Coning tucks into a school lunch - for the first time in his life.

Until now, Leo had to be fed by a pump directly into his stomach because of a hole in his heart. But a massive response to an appeal for help to pay for specialist treatment means the youngster can now enjoy his food like any other little boy.

Local people and organisations responded in force when Leo's parents, Nick and Mel Coning, found themselves having to raise a massive £8,000 in six weeks to enable him to have the specialist treatment at a clinic in Austria.

Within a month, the fund had reached £24,000 which has not only enabled Leo to have his treatment, but will potentially help other children with the same complaint said Nick, a Ryedale police officer.

"The transformation in Leo has been unbelievable," he said, following the treatment at the hands of Professor Marguerite Dunitz, a world specialist in eating problems in children.

Leo is now on special high-calorie food, but is able to take a packed lunch to school. Until now, said Nick, teaching staff had to help feed him with a pump.

"A lot has changed in our lives as a result of Leo's treatment, and we are eternally grateful to the thousands of people who have supported our appeal."

One of the biggest changes for the Coning family has been setting four places at the table.

"We have only ever had three until now because Leo couldn't eat the same meals as us".

Collecting boxes were put in pubs and shops through Ryedale, several events were held and Nick and Leo, and his elder brother, Ashley, raised a hefty sum through a triathlon they did between their home in Norton and Leavening county primary school which the boys attend.

Leo does not have to return to Austria for further treatment, but his parents have to keep in contact with the clinic.