The Wards Children's Award for Courageous Family is given to the family of Aurora Pile-Gray who died earlier this year after a brave battle with cancer

The family of a little girl who lost her battle with cancer earlier this year has been presented with an award for their exceptional courage.

It was hoped Aurora Pile-Gray could have collected the Children's Award for most courageous family, along with parents Keisha and Ethan, when the entire family was originally nominated back in the spring.

Keisha Pile-Gray with daughter Aurora. Picture: Keisha Pile-Gray/Growing Pains Paper Planes
Keisha Pile-Gray with daughter Aurora. Picture: Keisha Pile-Gray/Growing Pains Paper Planes

But the incredible youngster lost her battle with Burkitt's Lymphoma in June not long after undergoing a bone marrow transplant to try and beat the disease.

Aurora was diagnosed with the rare and aggressive cancer in May 2020 and spent more than a year in hospital, supported by her family, trying different chemotherapy treatments and fighting off two relapses.

In an emotional Children's Awards presentation ceremony this evening, GMB presenter Charlotte Hawkins revealed the Thanet family had received more than 10 nominations from people in Kent keen to tell this year's judging panel all about Aurora, her parents and siblings Ada and Oscar.

She said: "They are extremely well deserved winners and we send big love to your family."

Ada-Ireland Ward and Oscar Pile-Gray of Margate who are nominated for Wards Childrens Awards in the Courageous Family category with parents Ethan Ward and Keisha Pile-Gray. Picture: Chris Davey.
Ada-Ireland Ward and Oscar Pile-Gray of Margate who are nominated for Wards Childrens Awards in the Courageous Family category with parents Ethan Ward and Keisha Pile-Gray. Picture: Chris Davey.

The annual Children's Awards, organised by estate agent Wards, and supported by the KM Media Group and the Kent Community Foundation, recognise brave and courageous children and the families and organisations which support them.

In previous years the event has ended in the autumn with a celebratory lunch for nominees - but this year the ceremony opted to run virtually because of the pandemic.

Participants listening to Thursday evening's presentation were told that alongside caring for Aurora, her family had also faced hospital visits with both her siblings, who have been diagnosed with other health conditions they're receiving treatment for.

And that despite the heartbreaking battle the family, and incredible eight-year-old had been forced to endure, they were described as 'completely and utterly amazing' and 'deserving of every ounce of credit they get'.

The other award winners announced this evening were:

Darcey, who is now cancer free. Picture: Chris Davey.
Darcey, who is now cancer free. Picture: Chris Davey.

Darcey-Rose Chandler

Triumph over Adversity, children aged up to five -years old

Little Darcey wasn't expected to survive the traumatic delivery she endured, which left her and mum Kelly both seriously ill. But the miracle baby battled through and after two and a half years was discharged from regular clinic check-ups.

However when Darcey started preschool it was noticed she was going whole days without speaking or socialising and she was diagnosed with selective mutism. The family were then given even more devastating news Darcey had leukaemia when a fall on her scooter and a subsequent broken arm showed up some problems with the then four-year-old's blood.

After brutal rounds of chemotherapy, terrible side effects including a seizure brought on by the strong medication she was given, Darcey and her family were able to travel to Germany in February for a transplant after a donor match had been found. Last week the family were given the much-longed for news that Darcey, aged five, is now cancer free.

Theo Foss of Dover from Dover. Picture: Chris Davey.
Theo Foss of Dover from Dover. Picture: Chris Davey.

Theo (Rocky) Floss

Triumph over Adversity children aged six to 11 years

Theo was two when his family were told he'd never walk unaided and would need a wheelchair for long distances.

In 2017, after reading about a specialist operation for children with cerebral palsy that removes the stiffness in their arms and legs to help them gain strength, it was hoped it could become the lifeline to giving Theo more independence alongside less pain and discomfort.

After two years of research and understanding the immense amount of aftercare that would be needed - Theo was accepted in January 2020 at GOSH to have the operation. In six months his family raised the £31,000 needed for all the therapy that would be required after the surgery to make the procedure a success.

When Theo, who is from Dover, first came out of hospital he could not even support himself with a walking frame but he has worked daily, alongside school work, to never give up on his tough rehabilitation schedule.

Theo is now 18 months post op and is walking independently - something which his family describe as 'a miracle'.

Ryan Buggins of Ash. Picture: Chris Davey
Ryan Buggins of Ash. Picture: Chris Davey

Ryan Buggins.

Triumph Over Adversity, 12-16 years.

Ryan from Canterbury suffers from Batten Disease - a rare inherited neurological condition that causes loss of vision, progressive motor and cognitive decline, and seizures.

At 15 he is almost blind, is losing his ability to speak, suffers from memory loss and is now experiencing mobility issues.

But despite all of these challenges for someone so young, Ryan is described as upbeat, charismatic and optimistic.

Kent Association for the Blind has been involved in Ryan’s care since he was 7 years old, when his sight started to deteriorate and the association has shown him how to make use of the sight he does have. He also takes support from a wheelchair - something which hasn't worried the teenager - his only concern being how to best customise it!

Ryan's family say they know they have many challenges to overcome but describe their incredible son as a 'robust young man' who his fighting his way through horrendous disease with incredible humour and is someone who loves to tell a joke.

The pandemic and lockdown was very difficult for Ryan because he had to shield but inspired by Sir Captain Tom's walking challenge he set himself a target to walk 50 miles last August and raise £2,00 for the Batten Disease Family Association.

He says he wanted to raise money so that other children wouldn’t get the disease and be blind like him.

Olivia Evans from St Margarets-at-Cliffe, who has been chosen as the Wards Children's Award Young Fundraiser, pictured with sister Emily-Rose Evans. Picture:Chris Davey.
Olivia Evans from St Margarets-at-Cliffe, who has been chosen as the Wards Children's Award Young Fundraiser, pictured with sister Emily-Rose Evans. Picture:Chris Davey.

Olivia Evans

Young Fundraiser

Olivia is 13 and is described as a teenager with an 'infectious personality' with a desire to help others.

She has raised money selling unwanted items and clothes and puts money in a jar to purchase food for those struggling on the streets.

But on top of this the youngster from Dover is also a young carer for her mum who is suffering from PTSD, meaning that there are nights since Oliva was seven where she has sat with her to comfort her from night terrors and reassure her everything will be alright. Her family say she never asks for anything in return.

Despite being diagnosed with dyslexia and autism just as the country entered lockdown, Olivia helped elderly residents with shopping, collected for the food bank and has tried to change so many lives with her kind gestures.

Olivia fitted into a number of nomination categories for this year's awards, say organisers, but her family say fundraising is 'where her heart is'.

Brothers Finley and Elliott McGrath from Birchington. Picture: Chris Davey.
Brothers Finley and Elliott McGrath from Birchington. Picture: Chris Davey.

Finley and Elliott McGrath

Exceptional Young Carer

This award has gone to two brothers, Finley and Elliott from Birchington, who take care of their mum, who was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis two years ago.

The condition has left her unable to walk far and struggling to do all the fun things that the pair enjoyed during their first five years of life.

Both boys are described as extremely kind and caring with maturity well beyond their years and judges were told they do so much for their mum from helping to prepare food, getting her dressed, as well as looking out for each other.

Alongside this they are both kind and conscientious and work very hard at school, something which the panel felt earned them both this prestigious award.

Kezzie-May Unsworth, from Maidstone. Picture: Andy Jones. (52503011)
Kezzie-May Unsworth, from Maidstone. Picture: Andy Jones. (52503011)

KezzieMay Unworth

Going for Gold

Twelve-year-old Kezzie was born with a rare genetic condition and severe learning difficulties.

But despite the difficulties she encounters, judges were told the Maidstone youngster always works hard and has been nominated for the Kent Squad this year for swimming in a disability group. She has also been taking part in gym mobility since she was five and has now been given the chance to be a leader.

Since lockdown Kezzie has also learnt to ride a horse off lead - adding to her growing list of achievements. Her family say they are 'super proud' of her.

Charlotte Hawkins presented the awards virtually to winners this year
Charlotte Hawkins presented the awards virtually to winners this year

Club Ausome

Outstanding charity

Club Ausome, based in Rochester, provides support for families living with autism. From events and activities to advice and information, staff are always on hand to help, say members, even when other organisations can't.

Described as offering a non-judgemental, welcoming environment to both children and their families, despite a raft of nominations putting forward excellent Kent charities, Children's Awards judges felt Club Ausome was the most deserving.

One nominee wrote: "We are where we are today because of the Club AuSome team."

The Wards Children's Awards take place every year
The Wards Children's Awards take place every year

Kaye Condon

Outstanding Teacher

A new category for this year's Children's Awards, it was launched to recognise individuals helping, teaching, coaching and supporting children in educational settings.

And judges say they were blown away with the support and dedication of Kaye Condon to win the very first accolade.

Kaye works at Furley Park Primary Academy in Ashford and has been praised by one particular parent for supporting her child Elliott who has cerebral palsy.

Having worked as Elliott's teaching assistant for three years, as is 1:1 support in mainstream school Elliott's mum told judges without Kaye she would be 'worrying daily'.

Her nomination said: "Without Kaye Elliott wouldn't be the remarkable young man in school he's becoming. She gives him faith as a teacher, supports him every second of the day, and tells him nothing is impossible."

Praised for her nurturing, caring, gentle nature and someone who goes above and beyond what she's paid to do, judges felt Kaye was so deserving of the first Outstanding Teacher award.

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