It was a wonderful Wednesday as the Rotary Club of Grantham Kesteven honoured five remarkable youngsters at the fourth Children of Courage awards yesterday.
The annual event never fails to inspire with tales of exceptional courage in the face of personal adversity.
Peter Bowman, 8, has undergone repeated operations to his hips and legs. Grantham Additional Needs Fellowship’s Karen Salter said: “He has never been fazed by any of them, remaining as cheerful as ever and ready for the next challenge.” Since surgery in January, Peter has been confined to a wheelchair, but is determined to walk again as he has done so before.
Attendees were then told about a very driven 16-year-old by Kim Ashbee, hospitality and catering curriculum leader at Grantham College. Student Ben Leonard, who is profoundly deaf, was inspired aged 12 by an advert in the paper for a deaf chef. He aims to open his own restaurant for the deaf community, and has already earned a part-time job in a farm shop after impressing during work experience.
Despite initial anxiety about how Ben and his sign language interpreter Sophie would find the hectic kitchen environment during his course, Kim said: “Six months on and we don’t know why we were worried. Ben communicates with everybody - customers, peers, and staff - with Sophie’s help and without.”
They don’t doubt that he will achieve his ambition, and are looking forward to VIP meals! Ben said: “I feel proud of my life today, and that Grantham College nominated me.”
Other recipients were recognised for their support of loved ones with health difficulties. Year 10 Priory Ruskin student Chelsey Darby cares for her siblings after the death of her step-mum and her dad’s ill-health. Priory Ruskin’s Anne Hill said: “Chelsey has experienced some very traumatic times and she has weathered them with a strength that a lot of us could not dream of having.” Chelsey said she was really happy that her dad is proud of her.
Poppy Little, 17, is a full-time carer for her older sister Jess, who was born with a rare chromosome disorder. She is ‘endlessly helpful and cheerful’ at home and at Walton Girls’ Sixth Form, said its head Jane Etherington.
“Poppy obviously loves her sister very much and is very proud of her achievements,” said Jane, although added that Poppy was less keen when Jess makes her watch horror movies! Poppy is preparing for university after achieving an amazing four A*s, five As and two Bs, and said on being nominated: “I was shocked as I know there are so many people who have their own difficulties. But I’m very grateful.”
Last but definitely not least, Steven Carter surprised teachers at West Grantham Academy St Hugh’s when he took the opportunity to inform others about his condition and wrote 12 pages on Cystic Fibrosis for additional homework.
Form tutor Kathryn Thulbourn said: “Despite all the hospital appointments, the medication and the balancing of his diet - he’s never seen this as something that would stop him.” The 12-year-old dreams of opening ‘Steven’s Super Sweet Shop’ worldwide.
The awards were presented at the Urban Hotel by Rotary District governor Ken Billington, Mayor Ian Selby and SKDC Chaiman Reginald Howard.
The room was then on its feet after disability campaigner and writer Matt Hampson told his incredible story. Matt was left paralysed following an accident while training for a Six Nations game in 2005, but continues to coach at Oakham School and Oakham Rugby Club.
He is an advocate for all disability sport with his motto ‘get busy living’, and as Rotarian and organiser Marion Strange correctly said: ‘exemplifies all that the Children of Courage stands for’.