Published: 14:00, 01 November 2019
Two pairs of sensational siblings are among this year's Children's Award winners.
Brother and sister Liam and Milly Barden from Gravesend and Dawson and Sophie Lee from Sheerness have been praised for showing exceptional courage, care and bravery as they or members of their family battle serious illness or disability.
The four children are among a group of exceptional children in the county to win a 2019 Children's Award - a scheme organised by Wards and supported by the KM Group and the Kent Community Foundation, which culminated today (Friday, November 1) in a movie-themed presentation ceremony at the Mercure Great Danes hotel in Maidstone, in which winners were announced. Read on to learn more about each incredible winner...
Brave and Courageous - Liam and Milly Barden
Liam and Milly were nominated for their award by staff at the Ellenor Hospice in north Kent where their mum is receiving care for a brain tumour.
Alongside offering incredible support to their parents, the pair aged 12 and 15, have been selfless in helping others - putting on magic shows at Eleanor's bereavement groups and helping to organise a movie night at the hospice for their family, bringing pizza, snacks and drinks to make it a memorable evening for them all to share. Their nomination from the north Kent charity read: “They are a true inspiration and deserve this award. It is an honour to be able to nominate them and wish them all the best.”
Triumph Over Adversity 0-5 - Dawson Lee
Dawson Lee from Sheerness was born with cystic hygromas, which are fluid-filled sacs caused by blockages in his lymphatic system, which affect his face, neck and tongue. He was rushed to Great Ormand Street hospital at birth where he eventually stayed for 13 weeks and saw doctors put in a tracheotomy to help him breathe.
Not expected to eat, talk or walk, the almost four-year old is now defying all the odds - the cysts in his face are half the size, his tracheotomy has been removed and he is preparing to start nursery. His mum added: “He is now eating and breathing on his own, has learnt to say a few words and is learning to walk." His sister Sophie is also the winner of a Children's Award this year.
Triumph Over Adversity 0-5 - Jensen Norris
Jensen Norris has been called 'inspirational' by judges. The five-year-old from Sutton Valence was born unresponsive and at nine months old had a seizure followed by a hospital stay in which he only made a partial recovery. His parents were told he would never walk or talk however by June 2017 he began showing improvement only to become extremely unwell again requiring five months of intense rehabilitation having lost the ability to roll, sit and eat.
Despite daily seizures and around four hours sleep a night, Jensen is described as a “cheeky chappy who just gets on with life with a grin on his face”.
Triumph Over Adversity 6-11 - Dylan Searle
Dylan Searle from Strood has Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and has shown exceptional courage and determination to adapt to his condition, say judges. Now relying on a wheelchair to move around, Dylan has learnt to swim again, something that was never felt possible.
Supported by his parents and two sisters the youngster is described as 'kind and funny with determination not to let his disability rule his life".
Triumph Over Adversity 6-11 - Hollie-Grace Gough (Maidstone)
Hollie-Grace Gough was born with a cleft lip and palette and underwent two operations at 7 and 14 months. Until she was four she was a selective mute and even after this age would use sign language and only communicate with a select few and was never one to get involved in assemblies, plays, concerts or clubs.
But since a school move she has sung with her classmates in church, spoken at parents evening and been chosen to represent her school in cross country. In September she underwent an operation to rebuild her jaw and is likely to need more surgery as she grows into adulthood. Despite many obstacles her parents say their now nine-year-old never complains.
Triumph Over Adversity 12-16 - Alice Costen
Alice from Sittingbourne was born profoundly deaf and is registered blind. But despite the challenges she faces she always thinks of others, say her family, having organised collections and gifts for people in the community she feels are more in need including residents of a retirement home and Street Angels organisation.
Currently sitting her GCSE’s, Alice will then be moving to the Royal National College for the Blind to study Audio Media, IT and to learn braille.
Exceptional Carer - Sophie Lee
Sophie Lee is Dawson Lee's sister - the winner of this year's Triump Over Adversity award in the under fives category.
Alongside caring for her brother, Sophie supports her mum in also caring for her dad who is disabled. The 10-year-old's mum says “she just simply gets on with it and doesn’t ever complain”.
Young Fundraiser - Morgan Wright
In September 2016 Morgan, then aged nine, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. During her treatment and recovery, the determined youngster from Rochester kept up with school work and made crafts to sell on a stall to raise money for the Royal Marsden where she was being treated.
When her chemotherapy finished she took part in the 14-mile Marsden March, an event she now does every year to raise money for the hospital and for Medway-based charity Making Miracles where she also volunteers.
Young Fundraiser - Sophie-Alice Pearman
Sophie-Alice from Tenterden was born with Spina-bifida and Hydrocephalus and the early prognosis was that she would not walk, talk or lead a normal life. She has since had nine major brain operations as well as major ankle reconstructive surgery and been diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
But despite this has raised a whopping £80,000 for Kings College Hospital's Lion Ward and with her diabetic alert dog became the inspiration for a nomination for the Crufts Friend for Life Award which has led to her forming a registered charity Hypo Hounds to ensure more children and families can benefit like her from the support of a four-legged friend to help them with day-to-day struggles.
Courageous family - The Bignall Family
The Bignall Family from Canterbury is coping with severe illness and disability.
Dad Paul and daughter Emilie are both severely diabetic and in March this year Paul suffered a stroke on the left side of his brain which has left him needing a wheelchair. Emilie's mum also suffers with Meniere’s disease, which causes tinnitus, vertigo and other issues, angina and an issue with her autonomic nervous system which causes heart problems.
Mum Janine said: “With all of these challenges and being a full time carer, I still feel my family are the greatest of gifts to me and I am so proud we have come through so many horrendous times."
Going for Gold - Emily-Rose Evans Going for Gold
Emily-Rose from Dover is a young carer who supports her mother who has PTSD. As well as the amazing support she gives her family the youngster is a sensational swimmer.
On only three hours training a week she has become an accomplished athlete winning the 50 meter butterfly at the Kent Championships in January and coming ninth in the South East Region of England in the 50 meter Freestyle in July aged 11.
She is described as a role model for Kent's young swimmers.
Outstanding Charity - 21 Together
Maidstone charity 21 Together was set up three years ago to help parents, carers and educational professionals who support children and young adults with Downs Syndrome. Set up by parents who have children with Downs Syndrome the organisation is described as working 'tirelessly' to support Kent families. 21together.org.uk
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More by this authorLauren Abbott