The Rotary Young Citizen Awards, recognising hundreds of inspirational young role models since they were launched in 2007, mark their 15th anniversary this year.
The awards were started with my then boss at BBC News, Kevin Bakhurst, who was controller of BBC News24, and Rotary International in Great Britain & Ireland, to overcome negative stereotypes of young people that so often dominate the news headlines.
They showcase the good work that many youngsters are doing to help others locally and globally.
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From tackling issues around mental health, child poverty, anti-social behaviour, through to campaigning against plastic pollution to supporting cancer patients, the homeless, migrants and refugees, these are young people who are real “changemakers” stepping up today to change the world for the better for tomorrow.
Through their amazing work, they are inspiring other young people.
The Rotary Young Citizen Awards will again be presented by BBC TV Presenter Ellie Crisell at Volunteer Expo in Birmingham on Saturday, May 7th.
The award was the biggest honour and the constant support from Rotary with my charity events, fundraising and singing and believing in me from such a young age gave me the confidence to keep going.”
Here’s a look at how the Young Citizens nominated by Rotary clubs continue to make a positive impact on the world, focusing on some past winners:
Bethany Hare was 12-years-old when Leeds Rotary nominated her for a Young Citizen Award in 2012 in recognition of the fundraising she had been doing for a local children’s hospice for youngsters with life-limiting illnesses, setting up her own charity Bethany’s Smile.
Ten years on, her goal is to raise £300,000 to build Smile Cottage as a holiday/respite home in Yorkshire where families can go and spend quality time whilst creating precious memories when they are faced with the news that their child has a short life expectancy.
Bethany has also landed her dream role, playing Cher in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks.
She said: “Winning a Rotary Young Citizen Award has had a huge impact on my life. Rotary is such an amazing organisation.
“The award was the biggest honour and the constant support from Rotary with my charity events, fundraising and singing and believing in me from such a young age gave me the confidence to keep going. Rotary has 100% helped me with my performing and my acting career.”
Music has played a key role in the life of Grace O’Malley and her fundraising for charity from the age of 12. She won her Young Citizen Award in 2013 after being nominated by Padiham Rotary in Lancashire for raising tens of thousands of pounds for the Royal British Legion, Pendleside Hospice and cancer charities – and she’s got big ambitions for the future
Grace, who turns 24 in February, plans to become a professional opera singer and is studying for a Master’s Degree at the Royal College of Music.
Her aim is to use her singing talent to raise one million pounds for charity.
She is also a founder member of the Rotaract Club of London where she has helped raise thousands of pounds for Rotary’s End Polio Now campaign and the Crisis homeless charity organising virtual music events during the pandemic.
Twelve-year-old Max Woosey from Devon has pledged to carry on camping raising almost £700,000 for his local hospice so far by sleeping out in a tent in his back garden for nearly two years – and he has no intention of giving up!
Max decided to camp out from the start of the first lockdown in March 2020 after his neighbour Rick Abbott gave him a tent before he died of cancer and told him to “have an adventure” in it.
He has slept out every single night since then – even over Christmas, on his birthday, and through winter storms.
He took on the challenge to fundraise for the hospice, which helped Max’s family care for Rick before he died.
Max was “absolutely thrilled” to receive a Rotary Young Citizen Award in 2021 after being nominated by Braunton Caen Rotary near Barnstaple.
By the end of last year, he had raised over £573,000 topped up with £113,000 gift aid. North Devon Hospice said the money equated to almost 20 nurses working for 12 months.
Max was recognised in the recent New Year’s Honours List with the award of a British Empire Medal.
Rotary Young Citizen WheelPower Sports Award 2018 winner 18-year-old Abbie Breakwell was President of Long Eaton Interact Club in Derbyshire for two years. She was nominated for the Award by Long Eaton Rotary who started the Interact club at her school.
Abbie has been playing wheelchair tennis for six years and has had tremendous success. She has been ranked as Great Britain number one girl for five years and reached number two in the junior girls’ world rankings in October 2021.
In world rankings, Abbie is the third highest-ranked British female wheelchair tennis player who is actively playing.
In November, she was voted the 10th most influential disabled person in the UK in the Shaw Trust Power list 100.
Abbie has organised inclusive sports days at local primary schools coaching wheelchair tennis and is passionate about empowering women in Disability Sport.
In 2022, the Rotary Young Citizen Sporting Hero Award will recognise the achievements and contributions of under- 25s who have served as a positive role model to others. It can be an able-bodied or disabled sports participant or a group or an individual or group, who is enabling others to participate in sport.
There is also the Rotary Young Citizen Peacemaker Award which recognises young people who have made a significant contribution by building peace and understanding, whether in their school, local community or with a peace project internationally. Nominations can be for an individual or group aged under 25.
The nomination deadline is Monday, February 28th. For the nomination form click here.