Children of Courage

Rachel and Tim Snowdon pictured with son Beau and Alistair Baker of Northumbria Water(left).
Rachel and Tim Snowdon pictured with son Beau and Alistair Baker of Northumbria Water(left).

THERE were tears and yet plenty of smiles as the stories of inspirational children were told at the Pride of Hartlepool awards.

Four youngsters were shortlisted. Their stories were so moving the judges decided to give them all an award.

Emily Crosby pictured with Alistair Baker of Northumbrian Water.

Emily Crosby pictured with Alistair Baker of Northumbrian Water.

Alistair Baker, from the sponsors Northumbrian Water, said the stories in three of the cases “pulled achingly at the heart strings” while the fourth was that of a young girl who had bravely overcome a serious medical problem.

Here are their tales;

l Who could failed to have been moved by the bravery of Emily Crosby, the battling 13-year-old who had to have a titanium rod inserted in her back after doctors found she had one of the worst cases of scoliosis they’d ever seen.

But Emily is a fighter and within six months of the operation, she was raising money to help other people by taking part in a Boxing Day sponsored dip.

She’s performed in a pantomime gone on tour to Italy to take part in a netball tournament.

Emily’s scoliosis was only diagnosed when her dance teacher noticed that something wasn’t right in her back.

Mum Jackie said: “We took Emily to the One Life Centre in Hartlepool and they referred us to the James Cook hospital where she had the operation. She went down to surgery at 7am and she didn’t get back until 7.45pm.”

Jackie, of Deacon Gardens, in Seaton Carew, said: “The whole night was lovely and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was so pleased when everyone was awarded.

Clair and husband Brendan pictured with Talia and Alistair Baker of Northumbrian Water.

Clair and husband Brendan pictured with Talia and Alistair Baker of Northumbrian Water.

“I could not have chosen between them.”

l Just as inspiring is the story of Talia Foster.

The Hartlepool four-year-old has tackled epilepsy, brain cysts, and respiratory problems as well as many other ailments.

But brave Talia always does it with a smile on her face, say her proud parents Clair, 38, and Brendan, 37.

Clair, of Erskine Road, Hartlepool, said: “We are over the moon but everyone deserved their award. It is an honour.”

The last few months have been a real rollercoaster ride for Talia and her family.

She sat unaided for the first time in her life after attending physiotherapy sessions at a specialist centre in Milton Keynes.

“It shows the fighter she is,” said her mum.

But then, shortly before Christmas, she spent a week on oxygen at the University Hospital of North Tees, in Stockton, when she was unable to cough up the fluids which built up on her lungs.

Yet she still battles on against adversity.

Clair admitted: “As soon as Talia was announced as a winner, we had to get the tissues out. It has all been really emotional.”

l Beau Snowdon is just six years old but he has already gone through more than most people do in a lifetime.

He lives every day with the genetic disorder Kabuki Syndrome which affects one in 100,000 people and can cause physical and mental delays.

Mum Rachel watched her son pick up an award in one of the strongest categories of the night, and said: “I am really pleased but I am really pleased that everyone in the category won. The whole event was great.”

Since his diagnosis, Beau’s life has included three hospital operations, three MRI scans, feeding difficulties, curvature of the spine, autism and a sleep disorder.

But proud mum Rachel said her son handles all that with a smile on his face.

He was a worthy Child of Courage and Rachel added: “It has been an amazing night.”

l Last but not least is Adam Butterfield.

Four-year-old Adam has a chromosome abnormality called Emanuel Syndrome. It affects every cell in his body and there are only 12 reported cases in the UK.

Experts have told his parents Nicola McAllister, 36, and dad John Butterfield, 40, that he could suffer from heart seizures, kidney failure, asphyxiation, and an inability to walk.

But Adam just loves defying the experts and he could be able to walk within months

After he was declared a Child of Courage, Nicola said: “It was all really emotional. I cried a lot. I certainly was not expecting everyone to pick up an award.

“It must have been really hard for the judges to choose a winner.”

Proud dad John could not attend the ceremony but Nicola said she planned to ring him to give him the great news.

The audience was on tenterhooks as they waited to hear who had won. They were shown videos of interviews with the families of each of the candidates - all moving and all gripping.

Alistair added: “How could the judges separate the winners? They couldn’t. All four are winners.”