Belfast Telegraph

Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards - wise beyond their years

These young people are worthy finalists

Spirit Of Northern Ireland Award Nominee Nominee Amy Uprichard
Spirit Of Northern Ireland Award Nominee Nominee Amy Uprichard
Spirit Of Northern Ireland Award Nominee Nominee Sophie Stewart
Spirit Of Northern Ireland Award Nominee Billy Douglas
Spirit Of Northern Ireland Award Nominee Nominee Fionn Hamill
Spirit Of Northern Ireland Award Nominee Rose Doherty

By Christopher Woodhouse

OUR fantastic five finalists in the U105 Young Persons Award category of this year’s Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers have shown courage and determination beyond their young years.

All five have, in their own uniquely difficult circumstances, gone on to achieve above and beyond what would be normally expected of anyone, never mind people of such a young age.

Our nominees and their parents will be treated to a top class night of great food and entertainment at our grand final in the five star Culloden Hotel on May 30.

As with last year, UTV will again be recording this year's awards for a special one hour TV programme, to be screened on June 3, presented by Pamela Ballantine and Frank Mitchell who will also be our hosts on the night.

Entertainment will be provided by The Voice winner Andrea Begley and comic May McFettridge.

In what is also a moving occasion, guests will be introduced to all of our 15 finalists and get to hear their heroic stories.

Winners in the three categories (the other categories are Specsavers Overcoming Adversity Award and Sunday Life Unsung Hero Award, whose finalists we will preview next week), as chosen by a judging panel headed by TV star Gloria Hunniford, will be announced on the night, as will the overall Spirit of Northern Ireland Award winner, who will receive a £1,000 cash prize from Northern Ireland’s fastest growing care recruitment and domiciliary agency, Peninsula Care Services.

Tickets for the gala awards ceremony cost £60, including dinner, table wine and entertainment, can be purchased from JPR, Sylvan House, 232-240, Belmont Office Park, Belfast, BT4 2AW; by phone at 028 90760066 or e-mail:



AN 11 hour operation saved the life of Rose Doherty who was diagnosed with the rare skull condition unicoronal synostosis when she was just six weeks old.

Her mother, Orla, a district nurse, was told her daughter would be deaf and blind within six months and dead within the year if the highly risky procedure was not carried out.

The doctors at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital were able to rebuild the young Garvagh girl’s face but there was still the risk of her being left paralysed or suffering from epilepsy.

 Fortunately the surgery has been a success and young Rose has suffered no lasting side affects. There are annual visits to hospitals in England but Rose views them as holidays.


Comber boy Billy was starved of oxygen at birth leaving him with brain damage affecting all four limbs, the chances of him ever sitting up or rolling never mind walking were very small.

This didn’t deter Billy, now five-years-old, who helped his family raise the £50,000 needed for a life changing operation, known as SDR (Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy) which took place in July 2012 at a Bristol hospital.

Thanks to intense three hour long daily rehabilitation sessions he is now able to run with his friends, go swimming and even practice jujitsu twice a week a mere 18 months after his operation.


Diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome at the age of five, Fermanagh teenager Fionn wanted to explain to people what it was like to live with Asperger’s, a form of autism, from the point of view of someone living with it.

When 13-year-old Fionn started writing his blog, autisticandproud.wordpress. com, about his condition it was instantly popular around the world.

His candid blog details all aspects of his condition from how he feels during a meltdown to what he finds difficult about summer and things that make him uncomfortable.

The St Michael’s College Enniskillen pupil even had his blog, Autistic and Proud, nominated for the Blog Awards Ireland 2013.


Ballet dancer Amy was undergoing chemotherapy when the chance to audition for the English Youth Ballet came in November last year.

The 17-year-old was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in May 2013 but begged doctors to let her have a break from treatment so she could do an audition for Sleeping Beauty.

Amy had to go straight from the hospital while undergoing a round of chemotherapy, perform her audition and then go straight back to continue her treatment, luckily it paid off.

The Lurgan girl performed as a soloist in three shows at the Grand Opera House in April this year and recent tests have also shown there is no cancer in her bone marrow.

She is still determined to follow her dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer, having missed out on a chance to go to the Ballet West school in Scotland due to her cancer diagnosis.


Problems for Sophie Stewart began before she was even born when a 20 week scan revealed only one side of her heart was developing.

The little girl from Glenavy was born with the extremely rare heart defect, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, with only the right side of her heart working.

Her parents Natalie and Stephen were told she would die at the ICU in the Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast or be flown to Birmingham or London for treatment, but only if there were free beds.

Following five major heart surgeries in six years and medication for life, the resilient six-year-old has come through it all smiling.