It was our Children of Courage award winners Oscar Jealous and Elizabeth Soffe who brought tears to the eyes of the audience at this year’s Pride of Birmingham Awards. Although they are only 10 and 8 years old, Oscar and Elizabeth have battled more heartbreak than most adults in their lifetime.
And yet, they and their families have dedicated their lives to helping others. Their bravery, resilience and selflessness were celebrated at the event which took place on Monday 7th March at the Great Hall at the University of Birmingham, in partnership with the TSB.
Aston Villa boss Steven Gerrard surprised Oscar and his family when he appeared on stage to honor all the inspiring work they had done to help raise awareness for Batten’s disease. He was one of more than 40 celebrities who attended the red carpet extravaganza.
Read more – Complete list of Pride of Birmingham 2022 winners and their huge achievements
Yesterday we shared the stories of three Pride of Birmingham winners who faced tremendous adversity and went above and beyond to help others – Nazir Afzal, Lottie Frascina and Charlotte Aspley. Tomorrow, we’ll bring you more stories of inspiring people our city celebrates.
Elizabeth Soffe suffered third-degree burns to more than 60% of her body when a faulty air conditioner caught fire and spread to her bed. She was only six months old. The family were living in Qatar at the time and were airlifted to Birmingham Children’s Hospital, fighting for their lives.
Since then, she has had more than 70 operations and still has to deal with transplants and reconstructive surgery every six months. She needs regular physiotherapy and several baths a day to soothe her scars.
Despite this, he, eight, raised more than £215,000 for Birmingham Children’s Hospital – to help fund a laser burn machine – by running a mile a day for 26 days, including 73 laps of his garden during periods of isolation.
Originally from Ireland, she has now made Kings Heath her permanent home with mum Sinead, dad Liam and siblings Amelia, William and Daniel. She received her award from the stars of Dancing on Ice and Strictly and we caught up with them backstage as they chatted with Elizabeth afterwards.
Dancing on Ice star Liberty Poole said: “Elizabeth blows me away with her determination. I think she can teach everyone a lesson to keep going and there are no limits and she is an example of that. Elizabeth, you are beautiful inside and out. Always believe it. I loved what you said about being nice, just keep being nice. There’s people in the world who aren’t nice, but as long as you keep being nice, that’s all that matters.
CBBC presenter Rhys Stephenson, who took part in Strictly 2021, said: “What’s really cool about Elizabeth is that she doesn’t feel sorry for herself and so I don’t I just look at you, Elizabeth, and see someone who sees a future for herself as amazing. You are a flawless young girl who makes us all want to be better. I don’t think I I’ll never be as good as you but I’ll try.
Amy Dowden of Strictly said: “We really need more of Elizabeth don’t we? I love how you’ve turned everything into a positive and how you’re raising awareness and making money at such a young age. I think you have the mind of a 30-year-old to be honest! And I think, my God, what you’re going to accomplish is going to be, as they say on Strictly, A-MAZ-ING!”
Connor Ball, of The Vamps, who is taking part in this year’s Dancing on Ice, said: “People your age don’t do half of what you do – you should be so proud of yourself. And keep doing it, because we need more people like you in the world!”
Elizabeth’s mother, Sinead, said: “We are incredibly proud of Elizabeth, and it is even more special to see other people see her achievements. We are not originally from Birmingham, but locals from Birmingham adopted us, they just took us in as their own.”
Her father Liam added: “She wanted to raise money for the hospital because they have saved her life many times. It was our way of giving back to the hospital and the charities that have helped us throughout. along the way. We felt like refugees the first time we came here. Everything we had had been destroyed, our daughter was fighting for her life and our family was separated. We came here with nothing and we have built this new life because of Birmingham. The way the city has welcomed us makes it very special to get an award in Birmingham. We are delighted.
Oscar Jealous, 10, from Great Barr, was diagnosed with Batten disease, a degenerative neurological condition, just before the start of the first lockdown in 2020. He has since lost his sight, has to be fed through a tube and counts on 24- hour specialist care. Unfortunately, his condition is terminal.
Her mother Dani shared the family’s journey on her Be More Oscar Facebook page after a family member said everyone should view life in a positive and optimistic way, like Oscar does. Calls to ‘Be More Oscar’ could be heard in the Great Hall at the University of Birmingham throughout the evening.
Ben Shephard of Tipping Point presented his award to Oscar and said: “They are an incredible family and Oscar is a brave young lad. It’s incredibly honest to see how they document their story. For Dani and Alex to want to share their story is incredibly brave. The support, help and inspiration they provide to other families is immeasurable.”
A video of each Pride winner’s journey was shown on stage before they went to receive their prize. Oscar’s was particularly poignant.
Dad Alex added: “Watching the film was the first time we fully appreciate what we have been through because we go through it every day. We are also so proud of our son Charlie. He is only six years old and he doesn’t live a normal six-year-old life. I’m so proud of my wife and two kids.”
Oscar’s mother, Dani, had this message for parents: “Batten’s disease is rare, so awareness is the most important thing for us. We don’t want families to be misdiagnosed. This is to look for symptoms. You have to trust your parenting instincts and fight for your child.”
Read more –Complete list of all celebrities at the Pride of Birmingham awards
Read more – ‘All the nominees are amazing people’ – Birmingham Pride judges’ enthusiasm for this year’s event
Read more – ‘Emotional and heartwarming’ – Best bits of the Pride of Birmingham Awards
look – Event highlights on the Pride of Birmingham YouTube channel from Tuesday
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