All set for an emotional night at the Yorkshire Children of Courage Awards

There will be emotional scenes as the region’s bravest and most courageous children are recognised at the fifth Yorkshire Children of Courage Awards on Friday.

REWARDING: Thomas Raddings receives an award in 2014 from Yorkshire cricket captain Andrew Gale, host Steph McGovern and awards supporters Nik Enthwistle, Louise Woollard.

From those born with challenging, life-limiting conditions, but excelling in the face of their difficulties, to the young fundraisers who have been inspired to make a difference, each of the ten youngsters who will be celebrated at the awards has an exceptional story.

But what many may not know of is exceptional organisation behind the awards.

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Since it was set up by the St James’s Place wealth management company in 1991, the St James’ Place Foundation has raised and distributed more than £40m to good causes, including charities here in Yorkshire, such as Leeds Rugby Foundation, which was awarded £40,000 in December to fund a special educational needs development officer, as well as international appeals such as the Nepal Earthquake fund.

Awards founder Stephen Mitchell at the launch of this year's Yorkshire Children of Courage Awards earlier this year.

Around 75 per cent of money raised by the fund - which is matched pound for pound by FTSE 100-listed St James’s Place - goes to UK charities, with the remainder going abroad. Each bid for funding goes through a tough due diligence process to ensure every penny goes to good causes.

As well as celebrating those youngsters in our communities who are so special, the awards are also a chance to raise funds for the Foundation, and last year’s event raised more than £100,000.

This year’s event, at New Dock Hall in Leeds, is the biggest yet, with more tickets sold than ever before, and hundreds of nominations - which made whittling down to the winners exceptionally difficult, awards founder Stephen Mitchell said.

Mr Mitchell, the Leeds’ representative of the Foundation, said: “We were genuinely shocked at the number of entries we had this year, and it was so difficult to pitch one against another as so many could have been winners. Just sitting down and going through all the nominations is incredibly emotional.

“It just makes you realise how many special and inspiring young people are out there, succeeding every day against the odds.”

When he founded the awards, Mr Mitchell never expected them to be such a success, and now the format is to be replicated across the country.

He said: “One of core themes of the Foundation is supporting disadvantaged children. The awards encapsulate what we are about, raising money for charities but also recognising some of the most worthy young people. I think that’s why they have been such a success. Now we’re doing it in Birmingham, and there are plans to start up in London and Scotland.“

For Mr Mitchell, it is the children themselves who will take centre stage on Friday night, not the fundraising,

He added: “This may sound contradictory, but on the night it’s not about the money, it’s about doing something nice for a group of kids who are facing a difficult situation. They are just amazing.”

‘Outstanding’ achievements celebrated

The nominees in the Yorkshire Children of Courage Awards are split into five categories - fundraiser, young carer, special recognition, outstanding bravery and sporting achievement.

Among the winners last year was 16-year-old Thomas Raddings in the sporting achievement category. Thomas, who has Down’s Syndrome, is a member of the Able2 Pontefract Special Olympics swimming club and has made “outstanding” achievements in the sport, including competing in the Down’s Syndrome British Championships.

This year’s nominees in the sporting category include Lewis Buntain, who has a complex mix of conditions including autism, ADHD and dyspraxia. But the youngster from Mexborough, who excels in golf.

Over the last three years he has developed so much that he now encourages other disabled children to get into the sport, and has been given as award from England Golf for his efforts.