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Trailblazing campaigner for disabled young people is honoured by David Cameron

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 23/10/2015

Positive: Michaela Hollywood
Positive: Michaela Hollywood

An inspirational woman from Northern Ireland who founded a UK-wide life changing organisation that champions the rights of young disabled people has been honoured by Prime Minister David Cameron.

Michaela Hollywood (25), from Crossgar, Co Down, who was born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA), a progressive muscle-wasting disease, has been awarded a prestigious Point of Light.

After experiencing difficulties accessing a music concert in Belfast she founded Trailblazers in 2008, which lobbies on behalf of disabled youth.

Starting with a group of 20 young people in her local area, Muscular Dystrophy UK then managed to secure £250,000 to expand the network to the rest of the UK, which now has around 600 people involved.

Its aim is to fight the social injustices experienced by young disabled people and to ensure they can gain access to education, employment and other services.

In 2012 it successfully lobbied easyJet to change its policy on wheelchairs so that the airline no longer retained a wheelchair weight limit that excludes motorised wheelchairs.

The student at Ulster University is the latest recipient of the award, which recognises outstanding individual volunteers, people who are making a change in their community and inspiring others.

Among her many other achievements was completing a wheelchair marathon earlier this year raising funds for Muscular Dystrophy UK.

Michaela was born with SMA, which claimed the life of her sister Martina aged just 14.

It was a memory that motivated her to fulfil her lifelong marathon ambition.

Mr Cameron said: "Michaela has shown the incredible impact people can have when they work together to make a difference.

"By harnessing the power of over 600 disabled young people around the UK, Trailblazers has successfully campaigned for changes that will help thousands.

"I'm delighted to recognise Michaela as the UK's 373rd Point of Light."

Michaela, who is planning on studying a PhD next year, said she was "delighted and shocked" when she discovered she had been honoured.

"I just found out about a week ago but I had started to get emails from the Cabinet office over the last few months asking me about my volunteering, which I did find a bit strange at first," she said.

"It was just amazing to find out that I was getting it.

"It is not only recognition for what I have done but what the organisation has done for the rest of the UK."

Nic Bungay of Muscular Dystrophy UK said: "It is wonderful that Michaela's efforts have been recognised by the Prime Minister.

"She has had a positive impact on almost every area of the work that we do."

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