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Prince Harry praises inspiring youngsters at 2016 WellChild Awards

Prince Harry praised the inspiring qualities of some of the UK’s seriously ill young people tonight at an award ceremony in Central London.

In his speech celebrating the 2016 WellChild Awards, Harry, 32, said: “This is now my ninth WellChild Awards and each year, at this remarkable event, I am profoundly moved by the people I have met and the stories they have shared with me.”

“It is one of those moments in life when you are left in awe at the strength of human character, particularly amongst those so young,” he said, adding: “Watching these young people face challenges with such determination, positivity, and good humour never fails to take my breath away.”

The prince has been Patron of the national charity for sick children since 2007 and has attended the awards on seven previous occasions.

During tonight’s ceremony, held at The Dorchester Hotel in London’s Mayfair, Harry also paid tribute to the dedication of those who go the extra mile to keep children healthy and happy.

“Never underestimate the impact you have and have had on so many lives that you touch.”

Before the ceremony, Harry met the young winners of each award category and members of their families. One brave youngster, Sam Merrick, eight, smiled as he presented the royal with a monkey toy hand-made from two socks before shaking hands with the prince.

Ollie Carroll, five, and suffering from Battens Disease, gave Harry a hug as he prepared to collect his Inspirational Child award. Battens occurs as a result of a genetic abnormality and is very rare. Only 30 children in the UK have the condition.

The royal also raised smiles as he spoke to Jessica Davis, another young award-winner. Jessica, ten, from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk, told the prince that her brother – called William – could be embarrassing at times because of his complex health needs and autism.

Harry smiled and jokingly replied: “I have an older brother called William and he is embarrassing all the time!”

Before his speech, Harry presented the award for Most Inspirational Child (aged 4-6).

With hundreds of nominations received from across the country, Linda Partridge, WellChild’s director of programmes, said it was a “tremendous” challenge for the judging panel to pick this year’s winners.

“All the panel members are moved by the bravery of the children, the stories of selfless care and support and the dedication of the doctors, nurses, teachers, brothers and sisters who make a great difference to the lives of seriously-ill children and young people,” she said.

Prince Harry continually plays an active interest in the work of WellChild and, alongside his attendance at the annual awards, has previously visited the home of a long term sick child who received care from a WellChild Nurse to see the impact her work had made and has publically spoken of his support in our mission to ensuring that all children and young people have the best quality care.

Tonight’s award ceremony also saw stars of the stage and screen lend their support, most of whom already have a connection with the charity as Ambassadors for its work. Actor Oliver Phelps, best known for playing George Weasley in the Harry Potter films, joined Sir Rod Stewart and his wife, Penny Lancaster and television presenter Janet Ellis; all of whom have been long-term supporters of WellChild.

The charity was originally known as “Kidney” and was set up by an individual whose friend’s daughter had died of kidney disease. Their aim, at the time, was to fund research into kidney disease.

Since its foundation in 1977, the charity has gone on to support hundreds of seriously ill children. Through a nationwide network of WellChild Nurses, home makeover projects and family support programmes, WellChild says that it is “committed to giving these children the best chance to thrive – at home, together with their families.”

For more information on WellChild, its programmes and how to get involved, visit their website.

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