Inspirational youngsters are recognised at the Grantham Children of Courage Awards
There was no shortage of tears, smiles and laughter at the 10th annual Children of Courage Awards this week.
Despite being in the midst of a global pandemic, the Rotary Club of Grantham Kesteven was determined not to miss out on recognising eight of Grantham’s most inspirational and courageous youngsters.
The special awards were held online for the first time since its launch in 2012, and celebrated the resilience and strength of eight young people from our local community who against all odds have shown tremendous courage in dealing with and overcoming difficulties in their own personal circumstances.
Their inspirational and often emotional stories were told by a school or college staff member, who had been asked to nominate a student who most exemplified courage in the face of personal adversity and difficulty.
Rotarian Marion Strange is the driving force behind the annual awards and led the virtual ceremony on Wednesday afternoon.
Each nominee was presented with a Children of Courage Award civic citation, signed by the chair of SKDC, Councillor Breda Griffin, Mayor of Grantham Councillor Dean Ward and the president of Grantham Kesteven Rotary Club Jon Waller.
As they missed out on the usual celebration lunch, Rotarians put together some treats for them, including a gift voucher from the club and items given by local businesses including, Bare Planet, The Muffin Top, Hawken’s Gingerbread, Fudged Up, Felicity - Ann Bags, The Garden Yard and Community Books.
First to be honoured was Mustafa Ashraf, of Sandon School after he received his nomination.
Class lead Lucy Otter described him as a very happy boy with an infectious smile.
She added: “He has a great sense of humour who loves making staff laugh by pulling faces and using his iPad to say funny things. He has had many hospital visits which means he has sadly missed a lot of school. He loves to chat to his friends at school and likes to teach them new Makaton signs. He was rewarded as our class Makaton champion. He has challenges to overcome but it doesn’t stop him from giving everything his best effort.”
Next up was Theo Bishop of Grantham College, a member of the table tennis academy who hopes to train for the Paralympics in the future.
Learning support co-ordinator Sharon Tidman said: “He is incredibly committed at what he does. When Theo was young, he and his family were told that he had cerebral palsy and despite the upset that this news caused Theo embarked on a rigorous process of physiotherapy and using mobility aids and flew to America for a series of operations. His tutors describe him as a bright spark and an excellent role model to all students.”
Next, the guests heard all about the courage displayed by Olivia Murphy, a Year 13 student at Kesteven and Grantham Girls’ School, after she was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis.
She was nominated by her head of year Juliette McCabe.
Juliette said: “Olivia has the grit and determination of someone beyond her years. Everyday is a struggle for her yet everyday she is smiling. Her positivity towards the condition is humbling. Despite being devastated when she had to give up her dancing, in true Olivia style she decided to keep attending and help the teacher with the choreography and when this eventually became too physically demanding, she became their team hair stylist. Olivia is truly one in a million.”
Over at the King’s School, guests heard all about the daily struggle that Oscar Kellas has to endure with Ehlers Danlos Syndrome, which causes his skin to tear and bruise very easily.
Elizabeth Dixon, SEND administrator and teaching assistant said: “We at the King’s School have our very own superhero. The fatigue that Oscar must feel on a daily basis, we can only imagine. To be able to put up with the discomfort he goes through, he obviously has more resilience and more stamina than Iron man himself. His achievements are outstanding.”
Next up was Lily Welham, of Walton Academy, who has not let living with cystic fibrosis stop her from achieving her all.
Assistant principal Kim Dolby said: “Lily is a true inspiration. Her form tutor recalls Lily’s wickedly dry sense of humour that made her sides hurt with laughter clearly showing that Lily has not let her condition stop her from seeing the funny side of things. She has had hurdles to overcome but they definitely haven’t prevented her from achieving her very best. She is a phenomenal artist and a budding photographer. She is a true inspiration.”
Over at Priory Ruskin Academy, guests heard next about Sienna Hutchinson, who has ADHD, autism and learning difficulties, and who was also a worthy winner.
Karen Shelford, director of inclusion, said: “Despite a journey that at times has been a struggle, Sienna has continued to push herself to reach the point she is at today. She has had to work extremely hard to understand the world around her. Sienna found school a challenge at the beginning but with support, Sienna now has an exemplary school record for attitude, effort and behaviour. She has come through many things in her life with courage, perseverance and an honourable sense of character.”
Last but by no means least was Shaila Bignell of West Grantham Secondary Academy, who had to undergo major surgery to remove an ovarian cyst and a tumour.
Head of Year Lee Hulse said: “The fact that Shaila is even here today inspires me. Shaila’s life has changed very suddenly in the last year. but she is someone who never ever looks back. I take as much inspiration from Shaila as I have done from any pupil that I have ever taught in my life.”
Peter Berry, district governor, heaped praise on the youngsters and said he felt ‘humbled.’
He added “Sitting here looking at all these young people makes me realise what an honour It is to be on the same screen as them. I feel humble to even be associated with the event.”
He also praised Granthan Kesteven as a club and to Marion Strange for all her hard work and effort in driving the awards forward each year.
Paralympic star Sam Ruddock was welcomed back for the fourth time as an honorary member of the club, and helped steer the virtual ceremony as well as having special words for each of the young people.
Signing off, he said: “You’ve all been given your own challenge and where others would falter and not show the will, you have made the conscious choice to give yourself the chance to face up to the challenge and take it on despite the hurdles and obstacles in your way.”
Since the first Children of Courage awards in 2012, there have been 65 recipients, 24 of them being awarded in the last three years.
President Jon Waller added: “Although these awards are a little different, as soon as it became clear that our usual event could not take place, all of us at Grantham Kesteven were committed to ensure that it would not be postponed or cancelled.”
Marion added: “Hearing all the youngsters stories, like a lot of us, we are absolutely overwhelmed.