The inaugural British Citizen Youth Awards – honouring young people who have positively impacted society, communities, charities or other good causes – took place on Tuesday at the Palace of Westminster.
Keira Beeson of Sleaford was one of 20 youngsters from across the country to be honoured, each having their own unique and inspiring story.
The awards were presented by Kimberly Wyatt of the Pussycat Dolls.
At the age of seven, Keira was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and has spent a lot of time in hospital trying every drug available to her, without success, leaving her with very few periods of remission. Along with the symptoms of Crohn’s Disease (abdominal pain, blood loss, fatigue and painful joints) Keira has also had to deal with the side effects from the immunosuppressant drug she takes.
In 2015 Keira saw that buildings were lighting up purple on World Inflammatory Bowel Disease Day (May 19) to raise awareness of IBD and show support. She loved this idea and wanted to do something herself to raise awareness and show that people should not be embarrassed to talk about the condition.
Keira approached her headmaster, Stephen Tapley at William Alvey School, and asked to have a ‘wear something purple day’ at school. She put up information posters and gave a presentation to the school about IBD and organised ‘purple day’. She decided to expand further, writing letters to local schools and businesses providing information about IBD and asking them to join her on World IBD day and wear something purple. She raised just under £2,000 for the IBD charity.
Earlier this year, she was told that her only option was surgery to remove the large bowel and create an ileostomy. To cope with this, she was given Buttony Bear by the Breakaway Foundation’s Button Bear Project. She realised how important the bear was in both giving comfort and helping talk about her condition with others, so she set about educating her headmaster and fellow pupils about the surgery she would be having and raising awareness in the local community.
Despite her surgery being booked for May 23 and World IBD Day being May 19, this did not stop Keira repeating her previous year’s activities: she raised another £2,000 for Colitis UK.
Despite suffering numerous complications in hospital, including pneumonia and a collapsed lung, Keira was determined to attend a cake sale and raffle she had organised for the charity. Two weeks after being discharged and barely able to walk, she raised another £255.
Dame Mary Perkins, co-founder of Specsavers, which sponsored the awards, said: “The society we live in tomorrow will be shaped by the children of today, which is why championing amazing young role models is so very important.
“The young people that become the recipients of the first British Citizen Youth Awards will, I am sure, inspire other youngsters to emulate their good work and embody the spirit of transparency, integrity, determination and achievement that define these awards.
“Whatever it is that they have done to make a significant impact on society, their community, a charity or other good cause, it will have been with a selflessness and commitment that deserves to be publicly acknowledged. These unsung heroes are the rising stars of the future – let us shine a light on them and celebrate!”