Receiving a Spirit of Youth award last year gave Co Antrim teen Ina Hamill the courage to open up about her mental health issues online.
Portstewart, who struggles with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), has started an Instagram blog that has helped many teens around the world living with the same mental illness.
But not only her positive attitude towards the disease impressed our judges so much that they received an award.
The 13-year-old girl was honored for her bravery in supporting mom Catriona (46) due to breast cancer.
Not only did she help her mom a lot during her long illness, she and her cousin also raised over £12,000 for cancer research.
As we launch this year’s Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards in conjunction with Ulster Bank, we encourage you to nominate a special young person in your life.
We are thrilled that Aine benefited so much from last year’s Spirit of Youth Award sponsored by Better Gyms.
She said: “It definitely helped boost my confidence, especially when it comes to posting about my obsessive-compulsive disorder.
“I write about it on Instagram and people thank me and say that just by talking about it, I helped them.
“It’s nice to help other people.”
Aine was devastated when her mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2020.
There was another trauma for the family when Catriona’s sister Breed, who lives in Tipperary, was diagnosed with jaw cancer in October.
Thankfully, she made a full recovery and is now working as a teacher again.
Aine got together with Breed’s daughter Caoimhe (12) to plan what became a phenomenally successful fundraiser.
The two girls, who live hundreds of miles apart, left their homes every day for 30 days in February and March last year to walk 5 km.
Using the slogan “Every Cancer Patient Should Survive”, they have managed to raise an incredible £12,046 for cancer research.
Aine said their goal was simple: “I knew my mom and aunt were having a hard time, but I also knew we were lucky because they would get better.
“We were hoping to raise £100. I was really shocked when we raised over £1,000 on the first day and very shocked at the total of over £12,000.”
A Dominican college student who was diagnosed with OCD four years ago struggles with a fear of germs.
During the pandemic, she attended a virtual conference with other young people her age from across the UK who also live with OCD. It was the first time she felt confident enough to speak openly about her illness, something she had tried to hide for years.
“If someone is struggling, they will report it and the rest of us are ready to help. It was great,” Aine said.
“Now I am coping much better with my illness and I have more good days than bad days.”
Her mother underwent surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy and herceptin treatment.
Catriona, now working again as a pediatric therapist for Woman’s Aid, explained: “I thought all my treatment was over and I feel good, but now they’re giving me this new drug because they say it can prevent the disease from recurring. . my type of cancer.
“It’s good for me if it reduces the risk of the cancer coming back.”
Catriona, her husband James (47) and their sons Finn (10) and Ronan (25) are proud of what Aine has achieved.
Catriona said, “Aine is a wonderful little girl and she has been a great support to me.
“We were afraid to tell her the news that I was sick, but she was so positive.
“She is struggling with OCD and it can be very difficult for her at times.
“When I was in treatment, there were times when I felt guilty because I could not do for the children what I usually did.
“But Aine just told me, ‘Just focus on yourself and get better. You used to do everything for me.” My son Finn was equally supportive and it was wonderful to have such support.
“It was great to see Aine so positive in the face of adversity.”
Aine was referred to a psychiatric service at the age of six due to anxiety. It was only three years ago that she was diagnosed with OCD.
Simple things can be a struggle for her because she lives in constant fear of germs.
When Covid hit, Catriona was worried about her daughter’s mental health, but in a way, the pandemic has made life easier for Aina.
Catriona said: “Aina had to go through many treatments and it took her a long time to accept her diagnosis.
“She wouldn’t tell her friends because she wanted to hide it.
“A year ago she attended a conference for the charity OCD UK. This included interacting with other young people [with OCD]which made her realize that she was not alone. For the first time, she felt like she could talk about it.
“She is afraid of germs, which is why she is afraid to communicate, because she is afraid of getting sick.
“We were worried when Covid hit, but it was actually good for her because she wasn’t the only one to wash her hands – everyone should have been doing it.
“The need to stay at home and socially distance was something of a comfort blanket for her.
“We don’t know what caused it because no one else in the family is worried.
“It can be exhausting for her, but she is doing very well.
“I am very proud of my daughter and how resilient and active she is in the face of adversity.
“Winning the Spirit of Northern Ireland award really meant a lot to her.
“She is doing great now. She has a new confidence in herself and is coping much better with her illness.”
This year’s Spirit of Youth category is sponsored by the charity social enterprise Better Gyms, which works in partnership with Belfast City Council and operates the city’s leisure centres.
As a non-profit organization, all money goes back to the community for staff development, investment in entertainment centers, support for young athletes, and participation in sports.
It is hoped that through the transformation of urban leisure services, more people, especially young people, will eventually become more active and more frequent.
Jacqui Pope, head of Greenwich Leisure Limited, which runs Better, said: “The Spirit of Youth Award celebrates the great potential and achievements of young people here.
“We are delighted to show our support for the special role that young people play, for their achievements now, their potential for the future and that they can change our community.”
To nominate a special young person for this year’s Spirit of Youth Award, simply email your application to [email protected]
AWARD CATEGORIES AND HOW TO NOMINATE:
Unsung Hero (supported by The Boulevard)
Someone whose great cause or deeds have previously gone unnoticed, but who will make a big difference in your life or in your community.
Someone who has overcome tremendous personal hardship, whether it be illness, disability, or overcoming challenges.
Spirit of Youth (Sponsored by Better)
Someone under the age of 18 who should be recognized for their special accomplishments.
999 Hero (Sponsored by Shield Accident Management)
An emergency service worker who went above and beyond in his job.
Someone who works tirelessly for a charity or fundraiser for many years.
Spirit of health
A healthcare professional who has gone above and beyond to improve the health and well-being of his patients.
The spirit of education
This award recognizes a truly inspiring teacher who has helped children and youth reach their potential.
Caring Spirit Award (Sponsored by Power NI)
A person, young or old, who devotes his time to caring for a friend or family member.
Spirit of sport
Someone who has made an exceptional contribution to local sports over the years.
Climate Hero (Sponsored by Concentrix)
Seeks to recognize a person or community group that does its best to care for the local environment and protect it for future generations.
Someone the judges think represents the spirit of Northern Ireland, selflessly serving others and inspiring us all.
Nominations are accepted until August 22. It’s easy to nominate someone. Just email us your nominations at [email protected] and tell us the story of the man who changed the world for the better. You can also send us nominations for the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards, 33 Clarendon Road, Belfast, BT1 3BG.