A cohort of courageous, strong and inspirational youngsters have today (November 23) been honoured in an awards ceremony commending their resilience and determination to fight conditions and illnesses.

St James' Park today played host to some of the region's most brave and deserving children from the North East, North Yorkshire and Cumbria, awarding 24 with chosen gifts to celebrate their resilience as part of the annual Braveheart awards.

The awards are now in their 34th year, and in its time have handed out a total of over 700 prizes to children from PS5s to iPads and even a Karaoke machine for one young girl.

Hosted by trustees of the organisation Jim Knight and Chris Metcalfe, the duo were joined on stage by special guest presenters Carol Malia of BBC’s Look North and Newcastle United women's football manager Becky Langley.

Amongst the winners this year was 5-year-old Autumn Smith-Laidler of Peterlee who was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis type 1 when she was just two, a genetic condition which has meant she has had to receive a considerable amount of treatment including surgery and chemotherapy.

Throughout this, she is said to have been a “super brave” girl throughout her care which included travelling to Manchester for 8 weeks of proton beam therapy.

The Northern Echo: Autumn Smith-Laidler.Autumn Smith-Laidler. (Image: LAIDLER FAMILY)

Mum Louise Laidler said her daughter is a “little ray of sunshine”, and spoke proudly of her humour and spirited nature.

She said: “Autumn is always happy, making everyone laugh no matter what and she is full of sass – such a little diva!

“She has never been down – not once. She was so little when everything started so she believes this is just her normal life, to go into hospital for treatment.”

The Northern Echo: Autumn Smith-Laidler with mum and dad Louise and Phil Laidler.Autumn Smith-Laidler with mum and dad Louise and Phil Laidler. (Image: LAIDLER FAMILY)

Accepting her trophy, young Autumn confessed she was excited to receive her gift which was a green bobbin bike with a helmet, as green is “her favourite colour”.

Another young lady who was praised for her endless bravery was Rosa Adam, 6, from Sunderland who was diagnosed with a Neuroblastoma when she was just 3 and is currently receiving treatment at Newcastle’s RVI hospital.

After a clear period, Rosa relapsed in February and has since had to receive further chemotherapy and proton beam therapy in Manchester.

The Northern Echo: Rosa Adam.Rosa Adam. (Image: LAUREN WELSH)

Mum Lauren Welsh said: “We’ve gone through all of this with two major surgeries and she still is the sassiest girl.

“It has changed her as a person, but she still is so strong and so brave. Because she has been so brave, I know her gift will mean the absolute world to her.”

Rosa’s last treatment is now expected to be on Valentine’s Day next year, as mum Lauren hopes her “feisty” girl will be able to ring the bell once again.

The Northern Echo: Rosa Adam.Rosa Adam. (Image: LAUREN WELSH)

Lauren added: “I don’t think she will ever be given enough to show how brave and strong she has been. She doesn’t know the word cancer – she just knows she has had lumps in her belly.

“Even after surgery, she has been told the surgeon has a magic wand and has been in there to take the lumps out. I try to protect her.”

As she proudly took the stage, the hosts made a note that her chosen gift of a ‘generation sweet home doll house’ was simply “too big” to be at the ceremony and was instead delivered to her home, much to Rosa’s excitement.

Imogen Darcie Rhodes, aged 7, was another Braveheart who accepted her trophy and gift with pride as in her short life has undergone treatment, surgery and lengthy stays in hospital after she was diagnosed with a heart condition when she was born.

The Northern Echo: Imogen Darcie Rhodes.Imogen Darcie Rhodes. (Image: ROITA NICHOLL)

Living with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLS), young Imogen had her first open heart surgery at just two days old and has most recently undergone a Fontan open heart procedure just two months ago.

Imogen’s guardian and grandma Roita Nicholls said: “She is such a happy little girl and so brave. She is braver than I will ever be.

“She is genuinely just amazing.”

Hosts of the Braveheart Awards said: “Throughout her many appointments and admissions she has remained extremely brave and overcome a lot of fear.

“I am told she has a real can-do attitude and despite her health issues has been determined to get to school, see her friends and do normal things as much as possible.

“She is also determined to overcome her condition. She listens to the advice of her nurses and rehab team and she bravely faces all the challenges thrown at her.”

Rosa was then awarded an iPad complete with a pink butterfly case.

Following the “glorious” ceremony, guest presenter Carol Malia spoke of the event and how it is always a “highlight of her calendar”.


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“This is the 15th year I have been involved with Bravehearts. These are very special awards, as these children go through more than some people will go through in a lifetime.

“Seeing the families and siblings is another highlight for me – they are so proud to see their children receive these awards and they couldn’t be more deserving.”

Co-presenter Becky Langley added: “This is the first time I have been formally invited to the ceremony and it’s been a joy to hand the awards out.

“They are just fantastic kids – and the parents supporting them are so strong and resilient too.”