An inspirational Hartlepool youngster is in the running for a national award.
Jessica Stones has been shortlisted for a prestigious Little Hero award for her outstanding beach cleaning efforts.
The ten-year-old was nominated by Hartlepool Borough Council for the Keep Britain Tidy Network Litter Hero Award in recognition of her work establishing ‘The Seaton Beach Squad’.
The eco-minded youngster set up the now 220-strong squad to help clean up Seaton Carew’s beaches after learning about the harmful impact of waste on beaches and sea life at school.
Last year, with the help of her dad Kevin Stones, Jessica managed to organise her first beach clean up event. Around 20 volunteers turned up and 21 bags of rubbish were collected.
Since then the group has gone from strength to strength and can regularly be seen on the beach.
Jessica is a true role model and testament to HartlepoolTony Hanson
Kevin, 35, an IT analyst, said: “Jessica loves the beach and hates people littering, it is something she is quite passionate about.”
The youngster even raised money to buy equipment for the clean ups.
Tony Hanson, assistant director of environment and neighbourhood services at the council, said: “Jessica is a true role model and testament to Hartlepool. Everyone is extremely proud of her and we are delighted she has been shortlisted in the category.
“On her own initiative she established the squad, recruited over 200 members, and now regularly spends her Sundays carrying out litter picks and spurring her team on.
“This national award recognises those in our communities who make an outstanding contribution to helping the local environment and reducing litter, and we could not think of a better candidate than Jessica.”
The Mayor of Hartlepool, Councillor Paul Beck, said: “The Mayoress and I attended one of the squad’s beach cleans, and we were truly inspired that children so young were taking such pride in the area they call home.
“Those clean ups are only possible because of Jessica’s hard work and dedication. Everyone here at the council wishes her the very best of luck.”
Jessica has previously hosted several assemblies at her school, St Cuthbert’s Primary School, encouraging classmates to also take an active interest in the environment and reducing the problem of litter.
Caroline Stones, Jessica’s mum, said: “We cannot put into words how proud we are of her passion and love for the local area and her commitment to make a difference.
“She is our little litter hero and our girl’s small actions will be the start of big changes, because she can be and do anything she wants to.”
The Keep Britain Tidy Network Awards will take place on Thursday, February 8, in Brighton.