Yorkshire’s most courageous children have been honoured at a prestigious ceremony.
Guests gathered at the Royal Armouries, in Leeds, to see the young winners take to the stage at the Yorkshire Children of Courage event.
Those honoured included a nine-year-old carer who works tirelessly to make his mother’s life easier; a six-year-old fundraiser who even gives her tooth fairy money to charity; a determined teenager who is a member of Team GB’s paraclimbing squad despite having only one arm; and a 14-year-old who has raised £140,000 for charity despite being born with her heart on the wrong side of her body and other heart problems.
The charity night was attended by some of Yorkshire’s top names in entertainment and from the sporting world. Among those present were Olympian Hannah Cockroft and Yorkshire’s director of cricket, Martyn Moxon. From the world of showbiz, panto star Billy Pierce and the Chuckle Brothers were on hand to add to the fun.
The aim of the event, held for the third time, is to raise money to help youngsters living difficult lives, as well as to acknowledge those children in our region who have shown courage in dealing with difficult circumstances.
It was co-hosted by Jack Carroll, a previous winner who went on to be runner-up in ITV show Britain’s Got Talent. Hosting alongside him was BBC Breakfast business journalist Steph McGovern.
The awards were set up by St James’s Place Foundation, the charitable arm of the St James’s Place wealth management company.
About 700 people were in New Dock Hall to see the winners crowned and the night is expected to have raised £60,000.
Helen Oldham, managing director of the Yorkshire Post, media partner for the awards, said: “These awards recognise the huge courage and resilience of some of the youngest members of our communities and go some way towards giving them the recognition that they so richly deserve.”
• OUTSTANDING BRAVERY
0-12: Libby Carstairs
Libby, 10, from Rastrick, near Halifax, is an inspiration to everyone she meets. She was born with a congenital heart defect and suffered severe complications following essential major surgery at Leeds General Infirmary, which included suffering a stroke and losing the big toe on her right foot. She was in intensive care and spent five months in hospital. Libby has shown courage and determination in learning to walk again and to be in school as much as she can. She is forever smiling, has an infectious giggle and is always ready to chat to anyone, despite damage to her voice.
13-18: Sam Whelan
Sam, 18, of Rotherham, was diagnosed with leukaemia at the age of 15 but he has faced the many operations and gruelling treatment with a dogged attitude, letting nothing bring him down. While his friends were studying for their exams, Sam lay in a hospital bed fighting his disease, yet as soon as he could he volunteered to support a young family facing a similar illness on the DIY SOS television programme and worked from 6am until after 9pm each day. Sam also organised a sponsored walk across the Three Peaks and even managed to complete the walk himself, raising £1,700.
0-12: Megan Rodd
Megan, six, of Dewsbury, began fundraising at just five years old and the Leeds Rhinos fan even donates her tooth fairy money to the Leeds Rugby Foundation, which changes lives through sport. She has collected money in supermarkets and even climbed Ben Nevis to achieve her aim of helping others. Birthday cash and pocket money are also donated to her cause. She took a bucket up Ben Nevis to collect money on the way, and managed to persuade Leeds Rhinos’ mascot Ronnie to accompany her in his full costume.
13-18: Isabella Cook
Isabella, 15, from Harrogate, was born with various congenital heart conditions and her heart is on the wrong side of her body, but she has been a fundraiser along with her mother Patti for 10 years, and has raised around £140,000 for the regional charity, Children’s Heart Surgery Fund. She has also raised awareness of congenital heart disease despite having had major operations that have made her bedridden for weeks at a time.
• SPECIAL RECOGNITION
0-12: GRACE FU
Grace, five, of Seacroft, Leeds, sustained a serious brain injury and other injuries during the first months of life. As a result she will be dependent on others for the rest of her life and requires 24-hour care. Yet she is an extremely happy child and brings joy to her maternal grandparents, who care for her.
13-18: Robert Christy
Robert, 15, of Bradford, was born at 32 weeks and suffered a brain injury at seven weeks. He was adopted by Barry and Denise Christy and lives in the family home with his adopted brother Alister. Despite requiring round-the-clock care and support, he remains cheerful and a joy to be around.
• YOUNG CARER
0-12: Josh Tootill
When Josh, nine, of Horsforth, Leeds, was just four years old his mother Caroline became a wheelchair user and suffered constant pain. Life for her is tough and she says Josh is the reason she manages. She said: “Josh is such an angel and helps me achieve whatever it is I’m doing. It can be simple like bringing something from upstairs or helping with the shopping or housework. So many things that most children take for granted, Josh is helping with.”
13-18: Joe Barry
Joe, 16, of Leeds, was born with complex heart problems, will need further open heart surgery in the future and is currently wearing a pacemaker. He was only able to run for the first time at the age of 16. But he has shown bravery and has also made a great contribution to the high-profile regional campaign Save our Surgery. Joe has spoken to many media organisations about his heart condition while his strength of character and experience have inspired other children.
• SPORTS AWARD
0-12: George Pearson
George, eight, of Leeds, began playing powerchair football for Leeds PFC in September 2012. In his first tournament in July 2013 he led the way as his side won the Development League and was top goalscorer. His performances were commented upon by the Wheelchair Football Association development officer for the North East.
13-18: Thomas Holmes
Aspiring paralympian and Sheffield Smashers Boccia Club star Thomas, 15, of Sheffield, had an amazing year at the Disability Games, organised by Barnsley Rotary Club. Thomas, who has cerebral palsy, won three golds and a silver. He was also the winner of the Triumph over Adversity award in the Sheffield Star Superkids awards 2013.
13-18: Sianagh Gallagher
When Sianagh, 16, of York, was born ten weeks early, doctors told her mother to prepare herself for the worst. Sianagh had a string of complications including just one arm, no collarbone, a curved spine, twisted pelvis, dislocated knee and both feet facing the wrong way. But despite the early setback, Sianagh has beaten all the odds to become the first one-armed person to join Team GB’s paraclimbing team.
• GROUP AWARD
Lighthouse School Leeds is for young people aged 11 to 19 with an autistic spectrum condition or related communication disorder. It is Yorkshire’s first special free school, offering a personalised education which combines the national curriculum with vocational subjects.