THERE was not a dry eye in the hall as the region’s bravest youngsters were celebrated at the Yorkshire Children of Courage Awards.
From the young people excelling despite the toughest of health conditions, to those going out of their way to be a tower of strength for family members in need of support, each of the 12 children who were honoured had an exceptional story to tell.
It is the fifth time the Yorkshire Children of Courage Awards has been held, and this year’s event at New Dock Hall in Leeds was the biggest yet.
As well as recognising deserving youngsters, the event raises money to held disadvantaged children though the St James’s Place Foundation, and this year’s event looks set to smash last year’s fundraising total of £100,000.
Richard Balmforth, executive director of St James’s Place Wealth Management, Leeds, which runs the foundation and the awards, said: “We had a fabulous evening recognising special children who have achieved amazing things - often in adversity and who so deserve our support. It was also brilliant to see the generosity of people in Yorkshire raising so much money for the St James’s Place Foundation.
“We had lots of fun as well as lots of tears - I am already looking forward to next year’s awards.”
Louis Goldthorpe, managing director, of Millhouse Furniture, Leeds, the headline sponsor of the event, said: “For the past four years we have been main sponsors and have watched with huge pleasure as the Awards have grown in stature and importance.
“It’s such a fantastic event raising funds for a fantastic charity that helps so many children both in the UK and around the world. We always feel very humbled and everybody nominated truly deserves special recognition - it’s no mean feat for these children and young people to have got this far.”
The Yorkshire Post was the media partner of the awards.
Managing editor Nicola Furbisher said: “Year after year, it is an honour to be involved with these awards and to help shine a light on the huge courage and resilience shown by some of the youngest members of our communities. The stories we have heard have been truly inspirational and we’re delighted to help give the children the recognition they deserve.”
The event was supported by a host of famous faces including Leeds Rhinos’ star Jamie Jones-Buchanan, boxers Troy Williamson and Natasha Gale, Welcome to Yorkshire chief executive Sir Gary Verity, and businesswomen Kate Hardcastle and Claire Young.
The event was hosted by BBC Breakfast presenter Steph McGovern, she said: “All these young people around me are some of the most special, outstanding, talented young people from this region.”
Entertainment on the night was provided by youngsters from Scala Kids - the Scala School of Performing Arts.
0-12: Ivy Mitchell (joint award)
Ivy was born August 2012, with DeGeorge syndrome and is at the severe end of the spectrum. This affects her with a rare and complex heart condition which requires her to have open heart surgery. Despite her challenging health and countless hospital stays, not a day goes by when she does not cease to amaze. She is now walking, running, starting to sign and hopefully going to start nursery. Ivy, of Sleaford in Lincolnshire, has a long way to go, the future remains unknown and more heart surgery is expected this year. We can only pray she continues to amaze those doctors with her grit and determination to survive.
0-12:Matilda Booth (joint award)
Four-year-old Matilda, from Sowerby Bridge is a funny and bright little girl who has proved time and time again that she is a fighter. Along with her twin Layla, she was born six weeks early and at 12 hours old, and weighing just four pounds, underwent her first major surgery. Matilda, who was spina bifida, is paralysed from the chest down and relies on a power chair to get around. She has a rare stomach condition and cannot eat or drink, but the tenacious little girl “never stops smiling” and uses the abilities she does have to her advantage.
13-18: Bethanie Price
Bethanie, 17, of Mirfield, is a typical teenager in many ways, studying hard at sixth form, and loves getting her nails done and watching trashy television But she faces extraordinary challenges and a rare health condition, which in recent years has taken away her ability to walk and speak like she did before. Bethanie had a normal childhood until the age of seven when she began to develop a tremor in arm. After exhaustive tests, she was eventually diagnosed with leukodystrophy, a degenerative, life-shortening condition that affects the central nervous system. Doctors still do not know exactly what form of the condition she has, but she is defying the odds every day.
0-12 : Nicola Sartin
Nicola, of Hull, has Cone rod dystrophy and she is going blind. She is sometimes very frightened and upset but instead of letting this take over her life, she has written a book about her life and eye condition to help others, she has set up a support page to bring other visually impaired and blind children together. She struggles on a daily basis but still encourage other children to do their best she is always willing to help others. As well as writing, she’s also taken part in a bike ride to raise money for Guide Dogs - despite some people saying she couldn’t due to her sight.
13-18 Megan Hardy
Megan’s dad was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2011, and is undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy, and along with her sister Maddison, Megan, of Bradford, has been helping their mum to fundraise for Cancer Research UK by making teddies and bracelets to sell. Megan’s mum Cheryl said: “It’s been a long three years but our family will not let cancer beat us.
0-12: Toby Lancaster
Toby, eight, from Wakefield, has Down’s Syndrome and has undergone three major heart surgeries and a raft of other procedures which have seen him spend long periods in hospital. According to his mother Joanne, he’s been through more in less than nine year than most do in a lifetime. But ‘Toby Trouble’, as he’s known as at home, is a whirlwind of fun who loves nothing more than playing with his older brother. Toby and his family were involved in the campaign to save the Children’s Heart Unit at the LGI and the family have raised thousands of pounds for charity.
13-18: Lawrence Nicholas
Lawrence has cerebral palsy and diabetes - and a great love of sport, particularly cricket, golf and football and swimming. In 2012 he had four procedures including an operation to lengthen his tendons and had his right leg broken and then rotated. Two weeks after the operations Lawrence was diagnosed with a stretched sciatic nerve which caused extreme pain and resulted in hypersensitivity in his toes which meant he was unable to wear a shoe on his right foot. He was determined to attend the 2012 London Olympics, managing to attend the swimming heats despite the on-going intense pain he was suffering. In late 2013 he began working with a personal trainer and progressed to walking with crutches and now is climbing stairs. He can now stand unsupported for several minutes and has begun swinging golf, been able to ride his tricycle. He wishes to help others and as such writes a blog Mission Impossible: Living with chronic pain.
0-12 Lewis Buntain
Nothing is too much for eight-year-old Lewis when it comes to his aunt Lizzy Georgeson. The youngster from Roundhay in Leeds is a tower of strength to Lizzy, who is a double amputee. Lewis’s uncle is in the army and often deployed away from him, and the schoolboy thinks nothing of stepping up and helping out with housework and helping to look after his aunt. The pair have a special bond and Lewis is incredibly protective of his aunt, and is never fazed when explaining to his friends about her ‘robot legs’,
13-18: Heather Shore
Heather suffers from depression and has battled mental illness for many years. Despite this, she cares for her mother who suffers from ill health and also cares for her brother who has autism. Heather, aged 17 of Huddersfield, financially supports her family.
0-12 Junior Frood
Junior is an 11-year-old street dancer from Meanwood in Leeds. He is the UK Freestyle Champion and ranked 3rd in the World, having started dancing at the age of 2. He has suffered years of bullying for being a dancer and his self esteem and confidence were affected badly. Through his dancing Junior has been able to overcome many obstacles in his life as it is a way of him expressing his feelings. He regularly performs for celebrity festivals for CBeebies and CBBC. He was asked by Leeds City Council in November 2014 to perform at the Leeds Christmas lights switch on where he met Sam Bailey off X Factor and supported her on her UK tour.
13-18: Lewis Eccles
Lewis, from Mexborough, has a range of conditions including autism, ADHD and dyspraxia - but excels in golf. Over the last three years he has developed so much that he now encourages other disabled youngsters to get into the sport.
Kadell Anderson Brown
Four year old Kadell saved his mum’s life springing into action when his mum, Mawena Brown, had a suspected heart attack at home. Quick-thinking Kadell, of Kirkstall in Leeds, managed to give his full address and phone number to the 999 call handler when Mawena collapsed with chest pains and shortness of breath. The incident caused damage to her heart, but medics admit that were it not for her son’s amazing actions, she may not have made it. i
The Group Award
Voted for on the night, this was announced after The Yorkshire Post went to print. The three finalists were Door 84, a youth club based in The Groves, York; The Donkey Sanctuary’s Assisted Therapy Centre in Eccup, Leeds, which provides therapy to children with additional needs or disabilities; and Springboard Youth Club, in Harrogate, which offers young people with autism and Asperger’s a place they feel safe to have fun.