PHOTO GALLERY - Sleaford children of courage awarded in emotional Rotary Club event

It was a truly tear-jerking event as nine young people from Sleaford were honoured at the Rotary Club Children of Courage Awards held yesterday (Tuesday).

The town’s two Rotary Clubs - The Rotary Club of Sleaford Kesteven and the Rotary Club of Sleaford organised the event at North Kesteven District Council’s Civic Suite.

Children of Courage Awards at NKDC Civic Suite. James Robshaw. EMN-160323-153338001

Children of Courage Awards at NKDC Civic Suite. James Robshaw. EMN-160323-153338001

The awards, that include a Civic Citation, were presented by the Mayor, Garry Titmus, the chairman of NKDC Gill Ogden and Rotary Presidents Graham Reams and John Elkington.

In the second year of this event, nine local children were nominated from the seven Sleaford schools, deemed worthy having shown courage and fortitude over the past year, rising above mental or physical impairments, debilitating family situations or other challenging circumstances.

Assistant governor for the Rotary district, Bill Martindale, said it was an outstanding event and thanked printer DPS Digital for producing all the programmes free of charge, whose commercial manager described the afternoon as ‘tear-jerking and thought-provoking’.

Mr Martindale said: “It is important that the community recognises the great things, obstacles and challenges that many of our young people face. May are unsung heroes.”

Several award recipients this year are weheelchair-bound, severely injured or have shown great courage and bravery when put in certain situations.

Guest speaker for the event was Matt Hampson, a former England under 21 rugby player who, in March 2005, was paralysed from the neck down in a training session. He has to breathe with the aid of a ventilator, but explained with the help of a short film, how he decided to set up the Matt Hampson Foundation to support others suffering catastrophic sport injuries. He also delivers inspirational talks to young people and businesses, coaches rugby at Oakham School and rugby club and patron of a charity to help disabled children communicate through technology. He is a columnist and wrote a critically acclaimed book about his circumstances.

Mr Martindale said: “For Matt to speak is a challenge, it just touched everybody. You could have heard a pin drop. Some youngsters there have serious conditions for the rest of their lives and he inspired them to say, they can do something - get out there and make an impact.”

The audience herad profiles of each of the winners of the awards. They were:

○ Georgia Lancaster, 11, from Kirkby La Thorpe.

Georgia was nominated as she has recently undertaken a caring role for her seriously ill mother who had undergone brain surgery. She is described as a role model for her peers and has shown a positive, ‘can do’ approach at her village primary school, being kind and caring to others.

○ James Robshaw is a student a St George’s Academy Ruskington campus.

James lives with cerebral palsy which affects his movement, speech and ability to eat and drink. He uses a powered wheelchair operated by head switches and communicates via a camera linked to a computer which tracks his eye movement to type onscreen and speak for him. He opted for a mainstream school and fully accesses the school curriculum and his cheerful disposition and work ethic is inspiring.

○ Caitlin Hammond, a year seven student from Kesteven and Sleaford High School who is an extremely hard-working pupil but also helps look after her mum who suffers from an ongoing back condition. She also helps care for one of her two younger brothers who is autistic. A modest girl, she has grown in confidence, joining Young Carers’ Club in Sleaford.

○ Oliver Watters, a pupil of Winchelsea Primary School, Ruskington, has learning difficulties and was very quiet and withdrawn, reluctant to attend school on occasions. He comes from a large family and all his siblings have a range of differing medical conditions that can greatly impact on him at home, including physical aggression towards him and upset.

Life was made even harder when the family business and home was involved in a fire and they were made homeless overnight. With suport, Oliver has begun to show great changes in his outlook and attitude to school, growing in confidence and spending a week away on a residential adventure trip. He took on a number of challenging activities and is now keen to represent the school in sport.

○ Keira Beeson, a student from William Alvey School has Crohn’s disease, a debilitating bowel condition, which has seen her in and out of hospital over the last year without complaint or using it as an excuse. She demonstrates a quiet perseverance and organised the school in Purple Day to raise the profile of the condition through activities in school and around Sleaford. Despite being due to undergo a major operation, she shows a belief that she can cope with anything life throws at her.

○ Lee Croker, a sixth form student from St George’s Academy Sleaford campus has achieved a great deal despite having duchenne muscular dystrophy, relying on a powered wheelchair to get around. He chose mainstream school to maintain his friendships from primary school. In the last year he had a major operation to straighten his spine and passed year 12 with good grades despite missing five weeks of term to recover. He loves sports and is a champion Boccia player (paralympic sport similar to bowls) for the school and has been selected to train with Team GB.

○ Bethany Jones, a pupil at Winchelsea Primary School, Ruskington, has had numerous treatments and operations for conditions that affect her hearing and is currently living with her grandmother after problems at home but still displays a positive attitude to school and work. She takes part in a range of clubs including choir and dance, successfully representing the school. Bethany has also organised a dance and singing club with friends to teach younger children in lunchtimes.

○ Thomas Sardesai, a year 10 student from Carre’s Grammar School, showed bravery and calmnes last summer when his younger sister Katie and his dad went sailing on Rutland water. Katie suffered a serious seizure 500 metres from shore. His dad dealt with his sister but inexperienced sailor Thomas was left to steer the boat to shore, call and deal with the emergency services and hailed other boats for assistance. He never panicked despite his sister’s condition worsening as she struggled to breathe. He engaged with staff at the lake to recover their boat and make sure the car and boat were stored overnight.

○ Abigail Coope, a year nine student from St George’s Academy, Sleaford, suffered a brain stem stroke last July which left her with some paralysis down her left side and difficulty communicating. She defied doctors’ expectations and was back on her feet within days, working hard over the summer to be get back to school, only missing one week at the end of year eight. Despite fatigue and communication difficulties, she has been keen to maintain normal school life, even improving her grades despite effects on her processing skills and memory.