The incredible achievements, skill and talents of children in care and care leavers in West Sussex have been celebrated in style.
The annual EPIC (Exceptional People In Care) awards took place at the K2 in Crawley on Saturday September 28.
It was the biggest one yet with a record 404 young people nominated for awards and each one taking home a trophy and certificate.
The event was organised by the Children in Care Council, with the support of West Sussex County Council staff. This year it had a festival theme with stalls, music and activities for the nominees and their families and carers to enjoy.
Paul Marshall, West Sussex County Council cabinet member for children and young people helped to hand out one of the awards.
He said: “I was truly in awe of every one of the individuals who were nominated this year and inspired by the incredible stories of achievement and bravery.
“We heard about individuals who have gained firsts at university, those training to be doctors and others who do so much to selflessly help others. These awards also shine a light on the many adults who we rely on to care for and nurture children in care to achieve their goals.”
The Big Heart Award – sponsored by Sussex and East Surrey Clinical Commissioning Groups – went to a young man who the audience heard ‘is caring and thoughtful with a huge heart of gold’.
The Big Talent Award – sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers – was given to an ‘accomplished and natural dancer’ who has performed in productions of Cinderella in Hollywood and Swan Lake with the English Youth Ballet.
The Big Thinker Award – sponsored by The West Sussex Virtual School – was awarded to a young man who has faced much adversity but through the Be The Change programme has been inspiring his fellow student and teachers.
The Chris Linfield Award for Volunteering in the Community prize went to a woman who supports Syrian families at a weekly drop-in and volunteers for Nations United football club.
The Best Supporting Adult of the Year was won by Theresa Kiely, a personal advisor who helps young people who are leaving care to become independent and make positive choices about their lives. The young person who nominated Theresa told how she helped them get into university and has continually gone above and beyond to support them.
On accepting the award, Theresa said: “I just like to help people to achieve their goals and rise above the situation they are in.”
The Big Strength Award – sponsored by the West Sussex Safeguarding Children Partnership – was awarded to someone who shows amazing strength and determination and has started college as well as learning to drive.
The Care Leaver of the Year Award went to a ‘truly extraordinary’ person who is training to become a surgeon and recently helped in a children’s hospital in Morocco and in a refugee camp in Budapest.
The final prize was the Young Person in Care of the Year 2019. The winner was described as a superstar who has achieved so much, including his work as a member of both the Youth Cabinet and Children in Care Council and in a leadership role in the army cadets.
Thanks goes to all of the other EPIC sponsors, including the Worthing Rotary Club, MetroBus/Go Ahead group, Faithful and Gould, West Sussex Fire & Rescue Service, Sussex Police, the Goodwood Estate and the West Sussex County Council SEND Commissioning Team.
Nominations are now open for the EPIC Awards 2020 on the county council’s website.