Meeting award winner Ella Eastwood is uplifting and inspirational.
With a broad smile and a steadfast commitment to raising cash for the Kent Association for the Blind (KAB), Ella achieves her goals despite her severely limited eyesight.
Whitstable girl Ella, 13, is registered blind as a result of Stargardt disease, a form of juvenile macular degeneration.
So far, she has been involved in raising more than £4,000 for KAB, a charity which has helped her considerably.
A year ago the Herne Bay High School pupil and dad Trevor Hathorn climbed Mount Snowdon through 60mph winds, reaching the summit, 3,560ft above sea level, in an onslaught of hailstones and 80mph gusts. Ella gained sponsorship topping £1,000 for KAB.
The achievement led to her receiving the Ward and Partners Children Awards 2012 young fundraiser award.
A family friend subsequently donated £2,000 raised at their bar to KAB in Ella’s honour.
It has been quite a year. Ella gained a school Pride award, and in July was presented with a Try Angle award for personal development and raised £300 for Cancer Research UK, by completing the five kilometre Race For Life along Herne Bay seafront in just 32 minutes.
Mum Tracey admits that was nerve-racking. She worried about Ella falling, running alone in the crowds, along a route with a potentially perilous promenade.
Her daughter took it all in her stride, as she does every challenge.
“Ella just found it exciting,” said Tracey, who describes her daughter as “a teenage angel, an easy going, bouncy, gentle, amazing little girl.”
Sport addict Ella is now hoping to complete a triathlon with her dad, doing the bike section on a tandem.
At school she has one-to-one support from a special teacher, Mrs Cambridge, who acts as a mentor and ensures she has what she needs.
This includes things like her timetable, which printed large on yellow paper because Ella finds it easier to read.
Outside in daylight she must always wear sunglasses to protect her eyes against further damage and the progressive vision of Stargardt disease.
Ella was about eight when her mum noticed she was looking at books unusually close. In school, she could not see the board.
It took about a year before her diagnosis at London’s specialist Moorfields Eye Hospital, where Ella has regular appointments, typically taking five hours each time involving some 13 different eye drops.
Whether her vision will stabilise is not known. She is on a list for experimental treatments there.
Ella’s bloods have been flown to America where it is hoped eventually new appropriate treatments for her may become available.
Meanwhile KAB continues to provide invaluable back up and advice, as well as funding for specialist equipment, for example a £1,500 electric magnifier that zooms in and out, as well as specially adapted school equipment including rulers and compasses.
The charity enables Ella to make the most of the sight she has and be independent. Through KAB, Ella and her family have been to Chessington World of Adventure and Ella has been gliding.
Tracey said KAB support worker Jenny Bent, who visits regularly and is constantly in touch by telephone, has been “absolutely amazing”. It was Jenny who nominated Ella for the Ward’s award.
Of her £1,000 prize, £700 went to KAB and £300 towards a special mobile phone for Ella.
For her to win was “very emotional, such an achievement,” said Tracey.
“It was an acknowledgement of all her hard work. The support from KAB has opened her eyes to what fundraising can do. We will always support KAB. It is a charity we are passionate about because it gives so, so much.”
To enter a deserving child for this year's Ward and Partner's Awards, click here.