Inspirational boys and girls honoured with Diana Award
Thirty of Northern Ireland's most inspirational young people have been presented with a Diana Award at Stormont.
The awards, in memory of the late princess, are given to courageous, caring, compassionate people aged between nine and 18 who are nominated in recognition of their special efforts to transform the lives of others.
The winners received their awards at a ceremony yesterday. The Belfast Telegraph caught up with three of them.
Antrim Grammar School pupil Victoria McClements (15) won the Courageous Citizen award. She sang for the Queen at the 2012 Diamond Jubilee, then just six months later was diagnosed with life-threatening Addison's disease.
Since then she has campaigned for better treatment for people with her condition and has raised hundreds of pounds by recording charity CDs.
"I wasn't expecting it (the award)," Victoria said. "My body doesn't produce one of the hormones that keeps you alive. I went downhill quite suddenly and ended up in hospital, but I won't let it stop me. To get the award meant a lot to me. It reminded me I can do things even though I have the illness."
Lee Sampson (10) and fellow Cookstown Primary School pupils won the Champion Volunteer award for their Gardening Club. "We have loads of different projects," Lee said. "We have a Titanic garden, made from logs from the forest and white flowers to remind us of the iceberg. Mrs Collins takes us out of class and after school too. We enjoy looking after the environment."
Dundonald High School pupil Nicole Ross (15), from east Belfast, won the Champion Fundraiser award after raising more than £800 for the Little Princess Trust and donating her own locks to the charity.
"I think kids don't have the same opportunities and don't feel confident when they have no hair, so I wanted to do something," she said. "I raised money and had my hair chopped off. It was down to my lower back. I cried, but it was worthwhile. It is amazing to win. I didn't know I had a chance of winning."
Junior ministers Emma Pengelly and Jennifer McCann joined the young heroes to celebrate their success.
Ms Pengelly said: "Princess Diana believed young people have the power to change the world, and these awards are a fitting tribute. The young people being recognised here today will ultimately deliver the shared society that we all want."
Ms McCann added: "Many of today's award holders have overcome adversity which any adult would struggle with. Not only that, but they have focused their energies into a force for good, and are making a positive difference to others."
For more information on the awards, visit http://diana-award.org.uk