The inaugural British Citizen Youth Awards – honouring young people who have positively impacted society, communities, charities or other good causes – was held at the Palace of Westminster recently.
Twenty youngsters, from across the country, were honoured, each having their own unique and inspiring story – one of whom is 9-year-old Oliver Gatenby from Stockton.
The medal presentation ceremony, in association with Specsavers, shone a light on some of the nation’s brightest stars of the future. The awards were presented by Kimberly Wyatt of the Pussycat Dolls, whose band has sold over 55 million records worldwide.
Oliver was born with a venous malformation birthmark on the right side of his face and, despite multiple operations, will always have a degree of swelling and discolouration due to the risks of operating so close to his eye. He has always taken questions about his condition in his stride and brushes off rude stares by explaining: ‘It’s just a birthmark.’
Last year the cycling-crazy nine year old decided he wanted to be proactive and talk about his condition, whilst also raising money to help others who are born with a venous malformation birthmark. So when Oliver’s school challenged its pupils to raise money for charity he immediately chose the Birthmark Support Group and planned a cycling challenge.
The keen young cyclist learned to ride his bike aged just two-and-a-half and is a member of his local club, the Stockton Wheelers.
More about the worthy winner
Oliver’s mum, Vicki, said: ‘At Stockton Wheelers no-one mentions Oliver’s birthmark as they are so used to it. But Oliver knows that other children and their parents aren’t so lucky, and was determined to raise awareness of the condition. Sometimes when a birthmark is very obvious people are unsure what is the right thing to do, and can be nervous to talk about it, so Oliver feels really passionately about raising awareness.’
In response to his school’s challenge, Oliver planned a 101km cycle across a tough route in the Yorkshire Dales together with his dad and they set a fundraising target of £300. He undertook the challenge along with his dad earlier this year, completing it in just four hours, and Oliver quipped: ‘We’d have been faster if Dad hadn’t been so slow!’
So far Oliver has dramatically exceeded his target, raising £2,181 for the Birthmark Support Group and £500 for his school’s chosen charity.
A word from Oliver
Oliver explains: ‘This charity is close to me as I was born with a venous malformation on my face. It has helped me and my family deal with all aspects of living with a birthmark and put me in touch with people who have similar conditions to mine. It's a good charity and I wanted to be able to give something back in return for the help and support given to me.’
The money Oliver raised has been used to fund the purchase of a new ultrasound scanner at South Tees NHS Trust, which will enable more children and adults to receive treatment for a vascular malformation or haemangioma. The trust currently treats 25 patients each week at three clinics at two hospitals, so the additional scanner will mean this number will increase.