The Children of Courage Awards for 2017 were held in the Masonic Rooms in Sleaford on March 21st. Eight incredible youngsters, all based at Sleaford schools, received their awards from the Chairman of NKDC and the Sleaford Town Mayor. Family, friends and teachers were invited along too and after Grace from Rev’d Rhona Knight, enjoyed a meal supplied by Bites to Banquets.
Ethan is 15 and is a member of Year 11 at St George’s Academy, Ruskington Campus. He was born with a mild form of spina bifida and has limited movement in his right foot. He has endured all the difficulties associated with his diagnosis since birth; however, since 2013 has faced several major surgeries. It was discovered that his spinal cord was untethering so had surgery to correct this and now attends yearly hospital appointments. Last year, Ethan broke his foot. This did not heal as it should and he required surgery to move a ligament which led to complications and, in the near future, he faces surgery on his knee. He is in persistent pain; it impacts on his focus at school and on his self-esteem. He has a desire to find a career that gives something back to society – to help other young people like himself either through being a member of a social care team, or a counsellor. We wish to recognise Ethan for his bravery and his determination in how he faces his long term medical issues.
Kate is 16 and in Year 11 at St George’s Academy, Ruskington Campus. She has been diagnosed with Miserable Mal Alignment Syndrome in both legs with the added issue of having no knee grooves to hold her knee caps in position. The bones above and below her knees are twisted in opposite directions. Approximately three years ago, she dislocated, tore the ligaments of and fractured her right knee; this required surgery. A year later, the family obtained a second opinion from Sheffield Children’s Hospital and she initially had surgery to break her lower leg bones, turn the bones to straight position and place an external fixator (a metal frame) into the bone with 10 pins, which needed turning and cleaning daily for 3 months. She unfortunately obtained an infection a week later and was re-admitted to hospital for a week. Kate had to do daily excruciating physio exercises. After four months, the frame was removed leaving scars and the foot turned inwards. In August 2016, Kate had the mid upper bone broken and the bone turned to leave the foot facing forwards and straight. This time she had four small incision scars from hip to knee. Worryingly, 5 months after this surgery, the broken bone had not healed. As this statement is being written, Kate is currently in hospital, just having experienced further surgery to have a screw removed to enable intra medullary nail to move a little to encourage healing. She will need to wait six weeks to see if this surgery has been successful. If not, the nail will need removing and replacing. Kate also faces the same procedure on her left leg soon. She was nominated as not only has she faced five operations in a very short space of time, but because she never lets any of her medical worries interfere with her school work. Kate remains on target to achieve to a very high standard at GCSE and she is an inspiration to us all in terms of resilience, bravery and perseverance in challenging circumstances.
Amba was referred to us, at the Pilgrim School in Sleaford, in July 2016 by her Consultant at Queens Medical Centre Nottingham. She has been under the care of this hospital for one reason or another for the past 11 years. She has a range of medical conditions requiring specialist support and has enough prescribed medication to make any adult rattle! To date she has been anaesthetised approximately 70 times and is subject to ongoing investigations to try and identify some of her symptoms. She has intense pain and sometimes struggles to walk long distances. Perhaps not surprisingly, this at times has led to occasional downturns in her mental health and she has previously struggled with anxiety and low confidence. Throughout, her school attendance has been affected but she has managed to keep up to date with work and stay academically in line with her peer group. Her determination to succeed saw her attend a large secondary school for the first three years. However, her health deteriorated and Amba would worry about having an ‘attack’ at school. She became isolated from her peer group and rarely left her home. Following her referral to us, Amba has been an inspiration to staff and peers alike. She attempts to come to school even on days that she is obviously really struggling, and if she cannot manage it, she is always in contact with teaching staff requesting any work she has missed. Amba aspires for her future and is keen to work within animal care, childcare or catering. She is keen to complete work experience and recently attended a careers fair in school despite being poorly on that day. Our school is full of inspirational young people who are overcoming the odds but Amba’s positive attitude and approach to life stands out. She is an absolute pleasure.
Keira, a student at Kesteven & Sleaford High School, was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis at the age of seven and despite suffering severe pain and many operations, including having an ileostomy, she always remains cheerful. She has raised a large amount of money for both Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Colitis UK as well as raising awareness of the disease by encouraging schools to wear purple for World Inflammatory Disease Day. She has coped amazing well with the transition to secondary school and the after effects of her surgery. Her cheerfulness is contagious and often belies the discomfort she is in. She is truly a courageous young lady.
Lauren has Cerebral Palsy (Spastic Diplegia) but she has not allowed that to stop her achieving things. This has affected her balance and can make her feel tired. Despite this she is a very determined young lady who has worked hard to achieve everything she has. Lauren has played Boccia to a high standard representing the school at various events around the county. She is very independent and although she occasionally needs to ask for help she will always try to do things herself first. Lauren always gets the highest possible effort grades, this year earning a 1* in Geography. Quite the achievement for year 11! Laruen hopes to attend Riseholme College in Lincoln from September and all at St George’s wish her the very best of luck.
Victoria, a student at Kesteven & Sleaford High School, was involved in a road traffic accident in November 2015 which left her in an induced coma for two months with a serious brain injury. Victoria has astounded medical staff with her recovery and her determination to return to rowing again. Before her accident, Victoria was the National Indoor Rowing champion. She returned to school in July 2016 and has again astounded everyone by how she has managed to cope in the school setting. She meets every new challenge head on and never considers not being able to achieve her goals and aspirations a possibility. She is an extremely positive person who always has a smile on her face. Her courage is an inspiration to everyone she meets.
The courage she has shown with the medical issues she has suffered this year. She returned to St George’s Academy Sleaford Campus after her back operation and spent extra time catching up on her missed subjects and coursework. She then and currently still has unexplained episodes where she passes out, however she has still attempted to come to school and stay on task with her work load. Her whole life has been changed and she faces a very unsure future where she may not be able to live alone, drive, go out without anyone with her but she is still smiling.
Sleaford’s two Rotary Clubs – The Rotary Club of Sleaford Kesteven and the Rotary Club of Sleaford – again organised the annual ‘Children of Courage Awards’ event which was held at North Kesteven District Council’s Civic Suite. 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 heard 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.