Unique achievements and talents of young people in care have been showcased and celebrated at the annual EPIC Awards.
Recognising exceptional people in care, the awards received the highest yet number of nominees and all 283 were recognised at a ceremony toasting the inspirational, big-hearted and creative children in care and care leavers across West Sussex.
Hayley Connor, head of integrated prevention and earliest help at West Sussex County Council, said: “The resilience, creativity and joy in the room celebrating each child, young person and adult who provides care and support was completely overwhelming and inspirational.”
Organised by the Children in Care Council with support from West Sussex County Council, this year’s EPIC Awards had a Harry Potter theme.
Many of the 625 children, families, carers and staff volunteers attending were dressed as wizards to add to a spellbinding day.
Sarah Daly, head of children’s social care at West Sussex County Council, said: “I was really proud to be a part of such an amazing event that was a great opportunity for all to come together to celebrate the incredible achievements of our children and young people. It was lovely to meet so many people and hear their stories.”
CBeebies presenter Sid Sloane opened the proceedings at Butlin’s Bognor Regis and Children in Care Council members then helped present the awards.
Paul Marshall, West Sussex County Council cabinet member for Children and Young People, said: “This was my first EPIC Awards as cabinet member and it lived up to its name – it was truly epic.
“The room was buzzing with incredible young people and it was a fantastic celebration of their talents, strength and achievements, shared by families and the amazing people who care for them.
“The Children in Care Council planned and delivered a magical event and should be proud that they showcased the unique young talent we have in West Sussex.”
The main awards were:
• Big Thinker, which went to a young man who has made great progress at his school.
• Big Hearts, awarded to a young person who has ‘taken every opportunity to better his life, learn English and study and help others who feel isolated’.
• The Chris Lindfield Award for Volunteering in the Community, presented to a 13-year-old who raised £600 for a sanctuary for homeless teenagers
• Big Talent, which went to a teenage girl who overcame her fears to sing on stage in front of hundreds of people
• Big Strength, which went to a young girl who is making great progress at school and is learning to swim and ride horses.
• Inspirational Care Leaver, which went to a young woman who has created amazing films and photo exhibitions highlighting the experiences of children in care.
• Inspirational Young Person in Care, which this went to someone who, despite complex health needs, shows courage and determination in all that she does.
• Best Supporting Adult of the Year, a new award, which went to foster carer Sue Hollowell. Her foster child said she ‘gave me a new family, hope and love’ and is ‘the reason I believe miracles can be real’.
All of the nominees picked up a trophy, goody bag and advent calendar.