Belfast Telegraph

Sunday Life

Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards: Win has helped redouble brave Danielle's fundraising efforts

Danielle is a passionate fundraiser who won last year's Young Person Award. Pic: Liam McBurney.
Danielle is a passionate fundraiser who won last year's Young Person Award. Pic: Liam McBurney.

By Stephanie Bell

Danielle McGriskin is one of those rare individuals who even when going through a living nightmare of her own still managed to find the time and energy to help others.

The winner of the U105 Young Person Award at the 2015 Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers has fought brain cancer for five years while all the time working to make a difference.

Danielle, 19 is a tireless fundraiser who has amassed an astonishing £150,000 for the Brian Tumour Charity.

She is also a relentless campaigner, determined to raise awareness of the symptoms of brain cancer because her own condition went undiagnosed for a year.

The teenager has helped to spearhead the Headsmart campaign in Northern Ireland bringing it to the highest level by meeting with the health minister.

Just two weeks ago, she was part of a group addressing MLAs at Stormont on the importance of getting the leaflets on symptoms of brain tumours distributed to schools and throughout the local community.

Even the Prime Minister David Cameron has been impressed by her efforts, honouring her with a Point of Light award which recognises outstanding individuals - people who are making a change in their community and inspiring others.

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A horse named after the Co Antrim girl, Danielle’s Journey, raced at Cheltenham festival last month. Danielle has been involved with the horse for some time and was there when she won her first race on St Patrick’s Day last year at Down Royal.

Danielle was stunned last year to be singled out for recognition in the 2015 Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers.

She received her trophy from Louis Walsh’s new boy band Hometown and UTV’s Sarah Clarke.

Danielle is presented with the U105 Young Persons Award by UTV's Sarah Clarke. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Danielle is presented with the U105 Young Persons Award by UTV's Sarah Clarke. Picture by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Nominations for this year’s awards are now open and you can enter your unsung hero by emailing us at or by using the form at the bottom of this page.

It was the support that winning our award helped generate for the charity which most delighted Danielle.

She says: “It was an amazing night and the award really helped to promote the Brain Tumour charity and raise awareness.

“It was also great to meet so many new people and some of them I am still in touch with even now.”

Danielle lives in Ballinderry, Co Antrim with her sister Rebecca, 18, and parents Brian and Amanda.

Her life changed dramatically in July 2011 when, aged just 14, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour and hydrocephalus, which is water on the brain caused by the tumour.

She had endured 12 months of horrific symptoms which had been misdiagnosed as migraines.

Head pain is measured on a scale of one to 10 and for that year before diagnosis Danielle’s was at nine - an ordeal she described as excruciating.

To date she has undergone more than 20 operations, mostly to manage the fluid on her brain and has also been through radiotherapy in Bristol.

She is currently in her final year studying business at college even though her health issues have meant that she misses many classes.

She tires easily and still copes with headaches every day, but says she has learned to pace herself.

Last month she was back in hospital in Bristol when she was told that her ongoing pain is being caused by brain damage brought on by the hydrocephalus.

As ever she is looking on the bright side: “It was good in a way because it meant they were able to rule out that it wasn’t being caused by the tumour and the hydrocephalus which has gone now.

“I just have to learn to take things easy.”

Although she has had to slow down on her fundraising due to her studies, she continues to promote the charity on Facebook and JustGiving pages.

She adds: “Brain tumours are the biggest cancer killer of children and adults under 40 in the UK and yet receive less than two per cent of all cancer research funding and I want to change that.

“We have managed to get the Headsmart leaflets into all the GP surgeries in Northern Ireland which is fantastic.”

Spirit of NI Award categories

Unsung Hero

Someone whose great deed or deeds have previously gone unnoticed, but who will have made a major contribution to your life or to your community.

Overcoming Adversity

Someone who has overcome huge personal challenges, whether it is dealing with illness or disability or overcoming problems.

Spirit of Youth

Someone under the age of 18 who should be recognised for their special achievements.

999 Hero

A member of the emergency services who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in their job.

Charity Champion

Someone who has worked tirelessly for a charity or as a fundraiser for many years.

Spirit of Health

A medical professional who has gone the extra mile to improve the health and wellbeing of their patients.

Spirit of Education

This award recognises a truly inspirational teacher who has helped children and young people to fulfil their potential.

Caring Spirit Award

A person, young or old, who has dedicated their time to caring for a friend or family member.

Spirit of Sport

Someone who has made an exceptional contribution to local sport over a number of years. 

Overall Spirit of Northern Ireland Award

Someone who the judges feel best represents the Spirit of Northern Ireland by selflessly serving others and being an inspiration to us all.

 - There are 10 awards in total. You can nominate an unsung hero via the form on this page, which will be available in Specsavers stores, or email your nomination to Closing date for nominations is Friday April 22.

- The Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers grand final will be at held at the Culloden Estate and Spa on Friday, May 27. All the finalists will be invited to the glittering awards ceremony, which will include entertainment, celebrity guests and will be shown on UTV.

- Tickets for the gala awards ceremony cost £60, which includes dinner, table wine and the top class entertainment, can be purchased from JPR, Sylvan House, 232-240, Belmont Office Park, Belfast, BT4 2AW; by phone at 028 9076 0066 or e-mailing:

>> Click here to download the entry form <<

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