Meet Sunderland’s most inspirational young people

Sophie Farish, winner of a Children's Foundation Star award
Sophie Farish, winner of a Children's Foundation Star award
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PLUCKY kids and young people from Wearside have been recognised as inspirational achievers.

Caring Darren Dresser is an inspiration to other youngsters at Blue Watch Youth Centre in Sunderland.

The 18-year-old, from Thorney Close, was one of four youngsters from Wearside to pick up a Star Award from the Children’s Foundation.

A failed operation when he was four saw Darren lose all the strength in his legs and he now uses a wheelchair.

At the age of five, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and lives with his single mother Wendy, who gives him constant care and his three brothers and sisters.

But the brave young man overcame problems in his early life to join the youth centre in Ryhope when he was 11, becoming a volunteer mentor when he was 18.

He now runs DJing courses and game sessions, as well as workshops on health, hygiene, and staying safe.

Blue Watch members say Darren is a huge inspiration not only to himself but also to the people around him including staff, his peers and his family.

Smiling Sophie Farish, from Witherwack, is determined not to be beaten by aplastic anaemia, a condition that affects her immune system.

After going through a transplant at the age of seven, she was left with a very rare blood group, meaning even the smallest cut needs treatment at Newcastle’s Royal Victoria Infirmary.

Sophie, from Witherwack, also has asthma and ADHD, but despite her difficult start in life, her smiles won over foster parents Kaye and Jeff, who adopted her April 2008.

Now 17, she divides her time between being a mentor at a special needs youth club and volunteering in the cafe of Sunderland Royal Hospital every Monday morning.

Also receiving awards was Heather Smith, 10, from Thorney Close, who attends school every day, despite being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia and having complex special needs, including partial deafness, speech and language problems and Clodagh May Elliot, 14, from Fulwell, who was left with severe learning difficulties after a traumatic birth.

The plucky teen recently learnt to swim after many years of learning and her family say she is remembered and loved where ever she goes, becoming an honorary staff member at TK Maxx in Sunderland.

The awards ceremony, at the Biscuit Factory in Shieldfield, Newcastle, recognises the achievements of disabled children in the North East and their family and friends.

Dr Martin Ward Platt, chairman elect for the Children’s Foundation, said: “These young people need a voice. They need people to celebrate what they have achieved.

“It’s also nice to acknowledge the hard work of the families and the devotion they show in caring.”