Belfast Telegraph

Diana remembered at awards ceremony

X Factor finalist Lola Saunders was among a host of celebrities paying tribute to inspirational young people at an awards ceremony in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales.

Some 70 young people from across the UK were presented with prizes at the Diana Awards in London for making a difference in their communities.

Saunders, actor and singer Adam Garcia, and former Fame Academy coach David Grant were among those honouring the award winners.

The X Factor star, who presented the award for champion volunteer, said she was blown away by their courage and passion.

She said: "It's incredible what young people can do when they go out of their way to support other people their age.

"I hate it when you see things like bullying. Everyone in their life has gone through an experience where they don't want to go into school.

"So I'm really impressed with what children can do to help others in difficult situations. These young kids are going out of the way to achieve this. It's just really nice."

Saunders, who said she is currently working on new material which will show "a different side" to her, said teenage years could be particularly difficult for girls.

She said: "I know it's hard, when you're a young girl you feel you've got the whole world on your shoulders. But you've just got to go forward. You always come out the better person."

Also presenting an award at the ceremony was former Got To Dance judge Garcia, who said the awards were a fitting legacy for Diana.

He said: "Everyone loved Princess Diana, and the incredible thing about the people in this room is that they're doing it for other people. I've been inspired by stories here.

"I'm a big fan of civic pride and when young people foster that in their communities I think that's pretty spectacular. It's nice to be a part of this."

The awards, hosted by Barclays at their Canary Wharf HQ, were set up as a lasting legacy for Diana's work with young people in the UK.

The charity honours children who have overcome adversity and changed the lives of others, whether as a volunteer, fundraiser, carer or campaigner.

Lauren Rowles, 16, who represented England at the Commonwealth Games in T45 wheelchair racing last year, received an award for her work with people with a spinal cord injury.

Lauren, from Worcestershire, has been confined to a wheelchair since she was 13.

She said: "Three years ago I woke up one morning and I couldn't feel my legs. I was diagnosed with a rare neurological disease and was told I wouldn't be able to feel anything from my chest down.

"I spent around six months in hospital having treatment, but I'll never recover from this.

"Going back to school was really hard, I was worried about how people would perceive me. I want to help others who are in my position.

"I've been volunteering for three years now, working with people with spinal cord injuries."

Also presenting an award at today's ceremony was former Fame Academy judge David Grant.

Grant praised people like Lauren for tirelessly working to help others.

He said: "All of you represent the kind of people who don't just identify a problem but fix it. You challenge the culture by challenging yourself."

Diana Award chief executive Tessy Ojo said the charity aims to recognise young people who have gone out of their way to help others in their communities.

She said: "Today is about celebrating young people from across the UK. What makes them amazing is that a lot of them have overcome something but they have turned their adversity into a story and used it to inspire others.

"One of the things we believe is that young people have the power to change the world. We want to shine a spotlight on them.

"But when we recognise them for what they've done, that's only the beginning of the journey. We want to nurture them and continue to encourage them in social action."

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