A SUNDERLAND teenager who has battled back from adversity has been praised by the Prime Minister.
At just four years old, Darren Dresser lost the use of his legs after a failed operation to strengthen his lower limbs, confining him to a wheelchair.
A year later, he was dealt a further blow when he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, which had caused the weakness in his legs.
But determined Darren has never let his disabilities get in his way and today, aged 18, he is an inspiration to others.
Now David Cameron has awarded him a Point of Light Award for his invaluable volunteer role at Blue Watch Youth Centre, Ryhope, where he reaches out to young people with learning difficulties.
Set up by former US President George Bush, the awards have since been rolled out in the UK to recognise people who are a shining light in their community.
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “Thanks to a great attitude and a lot of determination, Darren has overcome challenging personal circumstances to make a huge contribution through volunteering. I’m delighted to name Darren a Point of Light.”
Darren said: “I am so happy to be receiving this award for doing something that I really enjoy. I have made lots of friends while volunteering at Blue Watch Youth Centre and I hope that others will follow in my footsteps and support groups like this.”
Darren, who lives with mum Wendy Burrell in Thorney Close, first started going to Blue Watch when he was 11, thanks to funding from Children in Need.
Inspired by the dedicated volunteers there, two years ago he began acting as a mentor himself, supporting staff to run courses for young people.
Darren is now a permanent volunteer who has volunteered more than 800 hours, delivering a wide range of courses including a DJing course, as well as workshops on health, hygiene and staying safe and a cookery class.
Joanne Ayre, disability co-ordinator for Blue Watch Youth Centre, said: “Darren has always been an inspiration to the other members and staff here.
“He has had to overcome many things in his life but never takes life for granted. Darren is a very friendly, approachable young man which was why he was offered the volunteering course. Darren teaches others to enjoy life and that everyone, regardless of ability, can achieve. Darren has grown so much in the last seven years and still makes us proud.”
Darren was presented with a Point of Light certificate and a covering letter from David Cameron for his achievement.