There were many laughs but few dry eyes at the fifth annual Children of Courage Awards yesterday.
Guests once again gathered at the Urban Hotel in Grantham to hear inspiring tales of young bravery, with the lunch and prize-giving organised by the Rotary Club of Grantham Kesteven.
As explained by Rotarian and event organiser Marion Strange, Grantham schools had put forward pupils who they feel are deserving of recognition.
First to be honoured was Sandon School student Jade Illingworth, who is undeterred by her multiple medical conditions, which include global developmental delay, Rett syndrome, epilepsy and scoliosis. Taking to the podium to shout about this wonderful young lady, Grantham Additional Needs Fellowship’s Sarah Watts said: “Jade is an absolute delight and a pleasure to have in our school.”
Jade’s parents, Dawn and Bob, also expressed their pride and their gratitude of GANF’s support.
Twelve-year-old Amberly-Mae wants to be a nail technician when she is older, and is certainly not going to let her rare bone development condition Kniest Dysplasia stop her. Seriena Hodder, from Ambergate’s safeguarding and pastoral care team, described the many operations the youngster has undergone, and said: “Throughout these numerous medical interventions, however painful, she has never allowed these difficulties to hinder her.”
Next, the packed room heard of the courage displayed by Ethan Blackman during the illness and death of his mum from cancer. “He coped really, really well, and got a great set of GCSE results,” said his form tutor Colette Martin. Ethan was joined by King’s School friend Daniel Blair, who admitted he was proud of his classmate, although added: “Don’t tell him I said that!”
Ethan is looking forward to starting his product design course at Coventry University, and said: “It was really heartwarming to hear all of the other stories today.”
Full of praise for 19-year-old Jade Malone, who uses a wheelchair due to cerebral palsy, was learning support co-ordinator at Grantham College Debbie Norman. “Jade shows great individuality and personality. We never quite know what colour hair she’s going to come into college with,” she said.
Her mum, Teresa, was at her side, and added: “I’m very proud. It’s nice for her to have this recognition.”
Few Year 7 students have to cope with what Emily Hollis does, being partially sighted and in danger of fainting or of sudden cardiac arrest. The Priory Ruskin Academy pupil was introduced to the crowd by her head of house, Karen Shelford, who said: “She’s a very positive girl and is always putting everyone else before herself.”
Over at Walton Girls’ High School, it seems Millie North has made quite the impression, with head of house Tiffany Boot saying: “I’m quite often witness to her independence and bravery.” It was apparent that she never lets her achondroplasia faze her.
Meanwhile, the amazing story of 11-year-old Tyler Forster’s quick-thinking in the midst of a crisis, calling 999 when his little sister suffered a fit, was related by form tutor Claire Morley. She explained that she had been through a similar experience herself while a child, adding: “This is why I hold Tyler’s actions in high regard. Not many of us can say that we acted so calm and collected during such a frightening event.”
Also speaking at the awards was special guest Kathryn Gallagher, a 24-year-old grade IV Para rider with Turner syndrome, a growth disorder. She too received an award in recognition of her own achievements, having secured podium places at the European Para-Dressage Championships on her first attempt, with ambitions to compete in the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
President of the Rotary Club of Grantham Kesteven Chris Thurlow said: “These young people have faced significant challenges with resilience and positivity. They are an example to us all.”
Describing his own experience helping visually impaired children in Kenya, district governor Geoff Blurton said the stories reminded him of Rotary’s slogan this year: Be a gift to the world.
“These young people, in their own way, are a gift to the world, a gift to their families, a gift to their parents, a gift to their schools, and a gift to Rotary,” he said.