A RUGBY legend who has raised more than £1 million for charity has been presented with a special award, along with youngsters from across the region.

The 48-year-old, who is currently battling motor neurone disease, has been given a Brave Heart award in recognition of his support for the children’s charity for the last 20 years.

Weir, who played lock forward for Scotland and the Newcastle Falcons, has hosted an annual fundraising sportsman’s dinners and earlier this year launched his own charity, My Name’5 Doddie, to help find ways to treat motor neurone disease.

Brave Hearts trustee Dave Hodgkins presented him with his award ahead of a ceremony for 20 brave children from the North-East, who have all been inspirational in dealing with their own battles.

Weir, originally from Edinburgh, said: “It is a very special award. You guys are doing such a great thing. I love all of the work that you do and I have loved being at all of the dos. Keep up the good work.”

The children and their families were collected from their homes in limousines and taken to St James’ Park in Newcastle for the awards ceremony to receive a crystal plinth, and a gift of their choice.

Four of the youngsters from County Durham have been treated for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, including five-year-old William Eager, a pupil at Springfield Academy in Darlington.

The youngster was diagnosed in May 2015 and has had three years of intensive treatment, during which he managed to keep his school attendance up to at least 80 per cent and learned to swim.

The youngest of four brothers, he lives in Darlington with his parents, Stacey and Steven, and received outdoor play equipment for his garden as his prize.

Mrs Eager said: “It has been exhausting.

“It turns your world upside down, but he is such a funny character. He is like a little old man and when we think we cannot go on he does something that helps us through.”

Rosa Belle Johnson, five, from Bishop Middleham, has also undergone intensive treatment and had countless hospital stays since her diagnosis at the age of two.

The Sedgefield Primary School pupil became known as the ‘Queen of Mashed Potato’ due to the amount she ate whilst on steroids and is looking forward to a trip to London to the live Disney show, Aladdin, with her sister, Jasmine.

Connor Arnell, 14, from Dipton, near Stanley, who attends St Thomas More in Blaydon, has dealt with his illness with maturity.

His treatment has included intensive chemotherapy, but he has also suffered added complications with some serious infections and blood clots.

Connor received an Xbox One X as his prize.

Five-year-old Dexter Langley, from Ferryhill, was diagnosed in 2017 and since starting his treatment, he has suffered a cardiac arrest and has also had some serious infections which has meant that much of his time has been spent in intensive care.

He now faces three years of chemotherapy, but has continued to demonstrate exceptional courage.

Dexter, who goes to St Michael’s Primary School, in Bishop Middleham, and has a sister and two half-brothers, received an iPad.

His mother Gemma said: “He is so deserving of it after everything he has been through. At one point he could not walk and we almost lost him multiple occasions but he has come on leaps and bounds.”

Alec Hutchinson, 14, from Consett, has suffered from a congenital heart defect since he was born and has undergone numerous surgical procedures throughout his life.

He is now undergoing assessment for a transplant and because of his current condition he is unable to attend school and has to have tuition at home.

The ceremony heard how Alec retains a great sense of humour with an ability to keep smiling through endless hospital appointments.

Six-year-old Mia Tate, from Shotton Colliery, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia in June 2016 at the age of four and very early in her treatment needed a bone marrow transplant.

She has now been able to start school at Our Lady of Lourdes Primary School in her home village and is living her life to the full. Mia has appeared in a Cancer Research awareness campaign, helping the charity to raise funds.

Her mother Hayley Foster said: “It has been really hard but she is doing brilliantly now. It has been nice for her to have a day like this to look forward to.”