INSPIRING children from around the country have been celebrated at the first-ever Child of Wales Awards.

A star-studded event in Cardiff recognised the heroism, talent and courage of Wales’ young people, including two sisters from Monmouthshire who have raised huge sums for cancer research in memory of their late brother.

The National Wales: Host Gethin Jones and awards founder Blanche Sainsbury. Photo: Steve PhillipsHost Gethin Jones and awards founder Blanche Sainsbury. Photo: Steve Phillips

Young fundraisers Emily and Holly Walker have collected more than £170,000 for charity in honour of brother Tom, who died after being diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia.

They were among more than a dozen young people and organisations to be recognised for their dedication and selflessness, at a special ceremony hosted by TV presenter Gethin Jones.

Others to be honoured included those who championed causes in their communities, to young sporting hero Lily Rice, who is the first person in Europe to do a backflip in a wheelchair.

The pandemic had forced the inaugural event to be postponed three times, but the red carpet was finally rolled out at the capital's Mercure Holland House on March 4, with a sea of famous faces there to congratulate the worthy winners.

Catherine Zeta-Jones sent a video message and Swansea City manager Russell Martin presented one winner - Child of Courage McKenzie John, who is a Swans fan - with a club shirt.

Swansea City Football Club paid tribute to the "huge courage and strength" or the winners, who are "a credit to their families and a credit to Wales".

Strictly Star Ian Waite was a guest and winner Ffion Gwyther, who kept her community entertained during lockdown donning fun fancy dress costumes, enjoyed a dance at the end of the evening with him.

A video message to Ffion, from actor Michael Sheen, was also played.

Debbie Walker, whose daughters won the Young Fundraiser award, said: "The evening allowed us to celebrate not just Emily and Holly, but Tom too and his legacy, it was an unforgettable and inspirational evening."

The winners of the inaugural Child of Wales Awards are:

  • Mark Jermin – Lockdown Teacher of the Year (Swansea)
  • Ffion Gwyther – Who Cares Wins Award (Carmarthenshire)
  • Cerys Angharad – Young Performer (Carmarthenshire)
  • Sophie Mansell – Environmental Champion (Pembrokeshire)
  • Casey-Jane Bishop – Bravery Award (Aberdare)
  • McKenzie John – Child of Courage [under 13] (Swansea)
  • Abi Phillips – Child of Courage [over 13] (Gwent)
  • The Roberts Family – Courageous Family (Swansea)
  • Lily Rice – Young Sporting Hero (Pembrokeshire)
  • Lewis Craven and Flourish, Summer of Picnics – Community Champion (Cardiff)
  • Andrea Tatarova – Exceptional Young Carer (Gwent)
  • Emma Lewis, The Roots Foundation Wales – Outstanding Charity (Swansea)
  • Bethan Owen – Young Leader (Denbighshire)
  • Holly and Emily Walker – Young Fundraiser (Monmouthshire)

Click the image at the top of the page to view the full gallery of the award winners.

Guests at the awards show also raised £50,000 on the night, for charities Dreams and Wishes, Teenage Cancer Trust, and the NSPCC; as well as The Bluestone Foundation, which donated its funds to the Red Cross for the Ukraine Disaster.

Blanche Sainsbury, founder of the awards, said: "I never imagined just how much this idea would take off and be supported by businesses and the public, we were overwhelmed by the nominations.

"My thanks to all our sponsors who supported us, an evening dedicated to the triumphs and successes of young people across Wales is just what is needed."