Six remarkable youngsters were guests of honour at a special awards ceremony on Wednesday.
Each had been put forward by their school to receive an award at the Rotary Club of Grantham Kesteven‘s seventh Children of Courage Awards at the Urban Hotel, Swingbridge Road.
The annual event always captures the community with tales of exceptional courage in the face of personal adversity.
This year, it was the turn of Lewis Blackburn, Lyndsay Hall, Amy Whitmell, Angus Brown, Chloe Russell and Marcus Jones to be put under the spotlight.
Sue Kinder, president of the Rotary Club of Grantham Kesteven, said: “We are here to honour six young people in our local community who against all odds have shown great courage and overcome difficulties in their personal circumstances.”
The first nominee to collect his award was Lewis who joined Ambergate Sports College in June 2016 with extreme anxiety and difficulty in managing his emotions.
When he joined Ambergate, Lewis had been diagnosised with Autistic Spectrum Disorder and through close work and support, Lewis received a formal diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Safeguarding and pastoral lead, Seriena Hodder took to the podium and said: “I cannot do justice the extent of this remarkable young man’s journey. Through working with CAMS, the school pastoral team and counselling, Lewis has managed to turn things around with a maturity beyond his years. He now has lots of friends and is the captain of the school football team. He is an inspiration to his younger peers, teachers and family.”
Next to receive her award was Lyndsay who has been part of Grantham Additional Needs Fellowship (GANF) since 2007, firstly attending Ambergate Sports College and now attending Sandon School where she is in her final year.
Despite having learning difficulties associated with developmental delay, her class teacher, Jo Morgan, explained how it has not stopped her from having a positive attitude to life and learning.
She said: “Lyndsay is always so outgoing, kind and helpful and approaches everything with such optimism and lets nothing get in her way despite facing some difficult times. Recently Lyndsay’s father has been experiencing ill health which has significantly impacted the family emotionally and practically. During this time Lyndsay has taken on the responsibility of helping her parents to look after her younger sister who also has additional needs but you would never have known as Lyndsay’s outgoing attitude has not changed. Her smile has never altered.”
Lyndsay’s parents Andrew and Caroline Hall were there to share her special day.
Speaking afterwards, Andrew said: “What can I say? This event has been absolutely fantastic. Lyndsay is inspirational and we are very proud of her.”
Next to give a presentation was Lisa Gerassimov, Amy’s learning support assistant at Grantham College. She explained how combined with the usual difficulties of being on the Autistic Spectrum, Amy also lives daily with ongoing kidney disease and is now in need of a kidney transplant.
Despite undergoing an exhausting dialysis programme at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham, meaning that she can only attend college twice a week, Amy is always the first to arrive for her Skills for Work course, excited to see her friends and eager to learn.
Lisa said: “Amy brightens all of our lives every day with her infectious personality, singing and dancing. She spreads sunshine wherever she goes.”
Sharon Luczak was next to give a presentation. She has supported Angus since he joined Priory Ruskin Academy in Year 7 and spoke passionately about Angus, describing how he goes through life with a smile and is a great support to his friends and other students despite Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy having a huge impact on his life.
Despite his challenges, he plays an active part at the academy and has developed skills in Boccia and New Age Kurling.
Sharon added: “Angus is a teenager but he has to work harder each day to achieve what most of us take for granted.”
The Year 10 student hopes to attend Grantham College and Sharon added that “wherever he chooses to carry on his learning, we know that they will be as proud of him as we are.”
Chloe was next to receive her award. The Year 8 student from Walton Girls’ High School has an array of complex medical conditions including NF1, hydocephalus and a recent brain tumour removal which left her partially sighted.
Lead teaching assistant Fiona Angel described her as: “My little ray of sunshine who brightens up every day. She is an inspiration to all that know her.”
Despite having to attend up to 50 medical appointments a year as well as numerous hospital admissions and lengthy surgeries, Chloe has made phenomenal progress in her learning and “never shys away from challenges and embraces opportunities to try anything new,” including taking part in last year’s musical Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and is in rehearsals for this year’s performance.
Fiona added: “On stage is where she feels most at home.”
Last but no means least, was Marcus, a Year 10 student at West Grantham Academy St Hugh’s, who has a visual impairment in his left eye together with Dyslexia and Epilepsy.
Despite this, assistant senco Kerry Davies who nominated Marcus for the award, described how he has overcome the difficulties he has faced and has handled them in a mature manner and a witty sense of humour.
She said: “I first began working with Marcus four years ago and he has never failed to amaze me each and everyday. Despite tackling each of his conditions daily, he never complains. Instead, he embraces every single day with a smile on his face and a brilliant sense of humour. I am honoured and priveleged that Marcus confides and trusts in me if he ever doubts himself. He is fantastic.”
Following the presentation of awards, Sam Ruddock, a Paralympic Track and Field athlete for Great Britain and Northern Ireland, who has competed at both London 2012 and the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, talked about his struggles with having cerebral palsy.
He said: “What an wonderful, inspirational and influential group of young people. I say influential as they all compel others around them to find courage within themselves. My cerebral palsy is my obstacle, my barrier, but like me, these youngsters don’t let their conditions define them or stop them from doing anything.”
When talking about how he ended up qualifying for London 2012, Sam added: “Sport is a great equaliser. Everyone is there for the same purpose.”
Addressing each of the nominees, Sam added: “We have all made the conscious decision to make a choice and take a chance. Nothing will ever stop you from achieving what you can. Keep moving forward.”
Mayor of Grantham Coun Mike Cook helped present the awards to the nominees.
He said: “I always refer to this event as a throat catcher. After hearing some of the inspirational stories about each one of the youngsters here today, I am only glad that I do not need to make a speech afterwards as I don’t think I would have been able to. They have each displayed such courage. It is a privilege to be here.”
Speaking after the event, Marion Strange, who spearheaded the awards, said: “We were privileged to honour six of our very special young people who have shown enormous courage in overcoming the daily challenges they face.
“Our thanks to Sam Ruddock who inspired us all and offered words of encouragement to each ‘Child of Courage’ to keep trying hard to achieve their goals.
“We think it is important to recognise young people who often get overlooked when awards are made - they may not succeed academically or in sport - yet, but they try so hard to do their best, often in very difficult circumstances, and deserve our admiration and congratulations.
“We aim to make them and their families feel very special, as indeed they are.”