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Highland Heroes 2024: Brave child shortlist revealed – VOTE NOW!


By Leah Williamson

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Here is the shortlist for brave child...

Stephen Hooper

Stephen Hooper
Stephen Hooper

Fifteen-year-old Stephen Hooper has had to overcome a lot in his young life but despite his own challenges he is always ready to support others.

The Inverness teenager was born 10 weeks prematurely and almost died due to a hole in his right lung. He has also battled numerous chest infections and in recent years has coped with family bereavements.

But he is always ready to help those around him, from family members to neighbours.

His nomination said: “He helps anyone he can; from neighbours to the local community at the allotments. He’s an inspiration. He deserves this award, nothing stops him.”

Granny, Marjorie Hooper, said the family were delighted and proud he had been shortlisted: “For what he’s been through, he’s so special. Stephen will do anything for anyone. We’re so proud.”

Keiran Macneil

Keiran Macneil
Keiran Macneil

Tain Royal Academy pupil Keiran Macneil (12) is already a hero to his mum.

The youngster has Becker muscular dystrophy, a terminal muscle-wasting illness. In addition to the physical challenges, there are mental health side effects too including ADHD, autism and dyslexia. As well as coping with his own health, Keiran has shown great maturity and compassion to support his mum and family when his great nana became ill and passed away.

A nomination said: “Keiran is so brave and he has faced more than the average 12-year-old. He is always kind and caring even though he has his own challenges. He shows so much strength and an incredible attitude.”

Mum Natasha added: “I’m overwhelmed, grinning like a Cheshire cat. Keiran deserves an award. He teaches me and others everyday how to keep moving forward no matter what’s thrown at you. I am bursting with pride.”

Vilis Forstmanis

Vilis Forstmanis
Vilis Forstmanis

Karate fan Vilis Forstmanis (14) has shown his fighting spirit in life as well as on the mat.

The Inverness Royal Academy pupil has spent most of the last year in hospital after being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Because he went through chemotherapy, he did not have an immune system and an infection got into his body, stopping his heart. Doctors resuscitated him and he was then put into an induced coma.

Vilis has proved to be a brave and inspirational teen obtaining a black belt in karate. A member of Karate Alba Federation (KAF), he competed in a Scottish championship in November, winning a gold medal in parakarate in his wheelchair.

A nomination stated: “Although the chemotherapy treatment – which he is still continuing to receive – has affected the use of his legs, the resolute youngster is determined to carry on with his beloved sport.”

Mum Liana was delighted her son had been shortlisted for a Highland Heroes award: “It was a surprise but we are very proud.”

Sinclair Dalgetty

Sinclair Dalgetty
Sinclair Dalgetty

Munlochy youngster Sinclair Dalgetty (7) survived a major accident on the family farm last summer when a double tractor wheel fell on him, leaving him with a serious spinal injury. The P3 pupil had life-saving surgery, with rods and bolts inserted to support his neck. His hospital treatment also discovered unrelated bowel issues which required additional surgery and as a baby he had developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH). But Sinclair works hard on his physio and therapy to help him cope with both the physical and mental challenges of his conditions.

A nomination stated: “He has had more hospital visits than anyone of his age should. His determination has seen him make a remarkable recovery.”

The family are delighted. Mum Lynda said: “He’s incredible. He’s a bit of a joker, he’s not lost any of that about him! We’re very lucky to still have him.”

Allie Sumner

Allie Sumner
Allie Sumner

Youngster Allie Sumner (4) has already had more to deal with in her young life than anyone should ever have to face.

Allie was diagnosed at 18-months-old with Severe Early Onset Scoliosis (curvature of the spine) and has been wearing a back brace ever since for 20 hours a day. She has undergone several major back surgeries in Edinburgh and now has rods in her back which will be lengthened as she grows. She will face further surgery to fuse her spine during her primary school years.

Yet despite this, Allie faces everything with a big smile. A nomination said: “Allie never complains about pain or things she is not allowed to do like jumping on a trampoline, or going dancing. Allie is a true inspiration.”

Mum Ivana added: “She’s been a trooper. Nothing stops her, nothing fazes her. She takes things in her stride. She’s a firecracker! It’s nice for Allie to get recognition, we’re all so proud of her.”

Macleod & MacCallum is sponsoring the brave child award.

Peter Mason, managing director at Macleod & MacCallum, said: “We are delighted to once again support Highland Heroes and in particular the brave child of the year award. There are so many brave children in our community who have faced lots of challenges and adversity in their young lives, and these awards are a chance to let them know how inspiring and valued they are.”

Alison Martin, chief executive of the legal firm added: “Everyone at Macleod & MacCallum, would encourage everybody to get behind Highland Heroes 2024 and support this important campaign. Please vote for a brave child in your community. They deserve to be celebrated for battling through their difficulties and being nominated is a recognition of what they have achieved in their young lives.”

Gemma McClelland, who became a director at the firm on October 1, added: “Macleod & MacCallum have supported the brave child award since the first Highland Heroes Awards in 2017 and the nominations are always so inspiring and humbling. It would be great if as many people as possible could support these awards by voting – it means so much to the young people who are nominated to realise how much support they have in the wider community”.

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