THEY may be small, but the finalists in the Young Heroes category of the Sun’s Who Cares Wins awards are certainly mighty.
These heroic youth have not allowed age to get in the way of their incredible achievements.
Selecting the finalists for the awards, sponsored by the National Lottery in partnership with NHS Charities Together, was no easy task.
Our amazing trio of finalists include an incredible young carer who looks after his mother and runs the household, a little boy whose positive attitude helped his parents overcome two family tragedies and a teenage cancer patient who raised £80,000 from her hospital bed collected for charity and vowed to train to be a doctor.
We were amazed by the stories of heroes far beyond their years and the winner will be honored at a star-studded awards ceremony hosted by Davina McCall and shown on Channel 4 and All 4 on September 24th.
Here are our Young Hero finalists…
Most teenagers find it difficult to keep their bedroom tidy, but for Joshua Robb, taking care of his mother and helping around the house is his top priority.
The little hero cooks dinner, does laundry and even helps mother Charlotte, 35, with her medication after she suffered a heart attack in 2019.
Charlotte suffered a serious cardiac arrest and is being kept alive by an artificial heart while she awaits a transplant.
But 12-year-old Joshua takes good care of her.
Charlotte, from Eastleigh, Hants, has an artificial heart called an LVAD which pumps outside her body but causes chronic fatigue.
She said: “Joshua and I don’t get to do as much together as I’d like and I’m really low on energy, but he’s always there for me.
“Joshua helps me make tea, wash and get my medication. There’s nothing he wouldn’t do.
“My LVAD needs batteries and whenever it beeps to replace them, Joshua is always there with new ones.
“He sometimes calls me the Terminator because I run on batteries.”
Charlotte’s condition leaves her unable to work and she finds it difficult to walk far or even bathe.
The mother-of-one added: “I can’t take Joshua to the park and I have to spend a lot of time in bed.
“We usually sit on my bed while I’m resting and we play together, do art or he does his homework.
“It’s incredibly inhibiting, but I have no choice. I’ll just have to wait and hope a new heart becomes available.
“I feel like he’s missing out on so much because of my condition, and not only that, he’s worried about me 24/7.
“I’ve had to stay in hospital after appointments in the past, so if I ever tell him I’m having one he’ll often get sick with worry and I’ll get a call from his school saying he has an upset stomach.
“It puts so much on his young shoulders.”
However, for Joshua, taking care of his mother is something he enjoys doing.
The student said: “I know I’m a little different to the rest of my friends, but my mother is brilliant.
“It’s also not a problem to do the things I do around the house. She did a lot for me when I was little, before she had her heart attack.
“We can’t do much together, but I’m happy just spending time with her.”
Although he is shocked by the nomination, the dinosaur fan says he is nothing special.
Joshua says: “A lot of young people do what I do.
“I can’t wait for mom to get her new heart so we can do more together again.
“Plus, mom is the first to take care of me and make sure I’m okay when I’m sick or upset.
“I couldn’t believe it when she said she had nominated me.
“I just do normal things, mom is the hero because that’s how she lives while waiting for a new heart.”
After losing two of her children to a rare genetic disorder, Sophie Byrne experienced every parent’s worst nightmare.
But Sophie, from Larkhill, Wilts, has a little ray of sunshine who has helped brighten her darkest days – her son Harry.
Sophie was devastated after losing her daughter Olivia to a rare genetic disorder in 2012.
When the family suffered another tragedy in 2021 when their youngest son Reuben died from the same complications, it was nine-year-old big brother Harry who held the family together and helped fill his brother’s short life with love.
Childminder Sophie, 31, said: “Harry was the glue that held our family together.
“Olivia and Reuben couldn’t have had a more loving sibling.”
Both Olivia and Reuben were born with a complex genetic syndrome that is so rare that there are only 20 known cases worldwide.
The condition is characterized by a range of symptoms, including intestinal complications, seizures and physical problems such as twisted wrists, longer earlobes and smaller fingernails.
Olivia lived for another eight months before she tragically died, and when Reuben was diagnosed with the same illness, the family knew he wouldn’t live much longer.
Even though he knew his life would be short, Harry filled his brother’s life with love and fun.
He sang and played with his little brother, filling his life with joy and making up a song for his special “Reubear”.
Tragically, Ruben died in his sleep on December 20, 2021.
Charlotte said: “I could see Harry’s heart breaking when we told him. He climbed into bed with him and sang her song.
“We were so heartbroken but also so proud of Harry.”
Despite his own heartbreak, within minutes Harry promised his little brother that he would honor his memory.
And incredibly, Harry has now raised more than £90,000 for the hospices and charities that cared for Reuben after overcoming a series of challenges.
Since his first hike for Reuben – the Yorkshire Three Peaks – Harry has walked 100km in a 50 day challenge and is planning to do the National Three Peaks later this year.
The football-loving teenager walked more than 16,000 miles – more than half the world – while raising money in memory of his brother.
Harry says the nomination is an amazing surprise.
He said: “I miss Reubear very much. He couldn’t speak, but that meant he was never mean or evil.
“He was always just sunny and happy. I miss singing to him.
“I always woke up first and went to bed with Reubear.
“I made up a song for us, sang it and pressed my cheek to his.
“Even though he couldn’t speak, I knew it made him happy when we were together.
“Some of the challenges were tough, but Reubear had a much bigger challenge and he didn’t give up.
“I couldn’t believe it when my mother said I had been nominated. I’m not doing anything special – Reuben and Olivia are the heroes, not me.”
AFTER a two-year stay in hospital, young cancer patient Issy Martin could be forgiven for never wanting to see the inside of a hospital again.
But the incredible teenager hasn’t just raised more than £80,000 for a cancer charity from her hospital bed – she’s also vowed to train as a pediatric oncologist to help other people like her.
Issy, from Horsham, Sussex, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in June 2019, just weeks before her 12th birthday.
Despite being treated at the Royal Marsden Hospital for more than four years, she tirelessly raised funds for the hospital’s cancer charity, doing everything from organizing cake sales to sponsored walks.
Brave Issy, 15, was nominated for the Young Hero Award by her cancer consultant at the Royal Marsden Hospital, Sanjay Tewari.
Issy’s mother, Annie Martin, 47, said: “Issy’s type of leukemia is incredibly rare.
“We have spent a total of around two years in the hospital since her diagnosis.”
As her treatment began, Annie was told that Issy’s body would be dragged to hell and back by chemotherapy while medics, including Dr. Tewari, struggled to treat her.
Despite complications like seizures, Issy did her best to stay positive.
Issy said: “I just wanted to look at the positive.
“Even though I was in treatment, there were a lot of other kids in the same boat.”
When the brave teenager first lost her hair in 2019, she told her mother that at least she wouldn’t have to bother washing it before donating 13 inches to make wigs for other children.
It was this level of positivity that inspired Issy’s Silver Linings – her initiative to raise funds for the Royal Marsden.
Annie said: “The cancer treatment Issy received is incredible, but her fertility has been affected, her mouth and gums hurt terribly due to ulcers and she has problems with her knees due to the intensive chemotherapy.”
After recovering from her stem cell transplant in July 2022, Issy is still determined to break the £100,000 mark.
The pediatric hematologist Dr. Sanjay Tewari said: “Even though Issy stayed in the hospital for most of her treatment, she was always in a good mood and entertained the staff with her funny jokes.
“I feel privileged to know her and be part of her journey.
“She bravely battled two types of cancer and her commitment to supporting and raising money for research is commendable.
“Her fundraising is an outstanding achievement and her persistence in continuing to raise more funds makes her a perfect candidate for the award.”
Issy was stunned when she found out she had been nominated for the Young Hero Award.
She said: “It feels so crazy to be nominated. I didn’t really think I was doing anything special.”
Issy is determined to get a pediatric oncology degree like Sanjay.
She added: “I want to help people and I know what it’s like to undergo treatment.
“My doctors and clinical team were all incredible.
“I know it’s not an easy task, but I think what I’ve been through will help me.”