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Prince Harry hails 'strength of human spirit' at WellChild awards ceremony

Prince Harry has paid tribute to the "strength of human spirit" as he recognised children who are battling against serious illness to live normal lives.

Harry joined parents, carers and celebrity supporters at the WellChild awards ceremony in central London to honour their achievements.

Speaking during the event at the London Hilton in Park Lane, he said: "The stories we have heard tonight are moving beyond words. They remind us of the utter insignificance of our everyday worries.

"Yet one of the things that always stands out is the positivity shown by those in the most difficult and testing circumstances.

"It is heartening to hear so many stories of happiness and hope, even through the dark times.

"And that is why we are all here this evening, to show our admiration for all the award winners and to honour their strength of human spirit. It is a privilege to have the opportunity to recognise you all."

Harry is the patron of WellChild, a leading charity dedicated to the needs of sick children and their families, which holds an annual awards ceremony to recognise youngsters battling serious illness and the medical professionals.

The organisation is best known for its nurses who provide specialist medical care and direct support in the home for chronically ill youngsters.

Before the presentations Harry met the winners and their families and one little girl thought the special guest was a clown sculpting balloons.

Nine-year-old Nellie-Mai Evans did not stand on ceremony when she met Harry and was soon playing balloon tennis with the former Army captain.

She hit the black and white animal-shaped toy on to his head and around his face as he chatted to her adoptive father Jeff Evans, 53.

Mr Evans said: ''She thought he was a clown and said, 'could you make a balloon (animal)?'. He replied, 'I would try, but I don't think I could'.''

Nellie-Mai won the Inspirational Young Person Award in the seven-to-10 age group. After having a heart transplant at just 11 months old, she has battled cancer three times and suffers severe fits and behavioural problems after having a stroke in 2009.

Mr Evans said her meeting with the prince came to an abrupt end when she announced: ''It's very nice to meet you but I need to go to the toilet.''

The proud father, a retired detective from Warcop, Cumbria - who was joined at the event by his wife Sarah, 42, and 16-year-old daughter Eloise - said: ''To be here meeting Prince Harry and having a do in my daughter's honour, and everybody else of course, that's fantastic.''

Among the celebrity supporters at the awards ceremony were WellChild ambassador Duncan Bannatyne, Paralympic star David Weir and Heidi Range, former member of the Sugababes.

When the prince met the youngsters and their families before the presentations he was also given a ceramic sculpture of himself - transformed into a penguin complete with ginger hair and a row of medals on his chest - by Ruby Smallman.

Ruby, aged seven from Liverpool, won the most caring young person award for helping to make her 13-year-old sister Holly, who has quadriplegic cerebral palsy and other conditions, as comfortable as possible.

Her mother Hayley Smallman said: ''We went to a pottery studio and we decided to make a penguin because Harry went to the South Pole. It had to have ginger hair, medals and lots of glitter.''

One present left the prince flummoxed - a basketball from Toby Sweeney-Croft, aged nine, who was awarded the Inspirational Young Person Award in the seven-to-10 category.

Trying to squeeze it into an inside pocket of his suit jacket Harry joked: ''It's not going to fit in my pocket. You enjoy giving big presents to see (someone) struggle to take them home?''

Harry chatted about England's Rugby World Cup loss to Wales with Geraint Richards, 13, winner of the Inspirational Young Person award in the 11-14 age group, and his father Chris, from Bridgend in South Wales.

The teenager was a healthy boy until January last year when he suffered an asthma attack which resulted in a cardiac arrest which starved his brain of oxygen, causing a severe brain injury.

Mr Richards said the prince was philosophical after the defeat: ''He did say Wales played extremely well in the last 20 minutes and deserved to win.

''He said they've got to start afresh, regroup and rebuild.''


From Belfast Telegraph