Six inspirational young people nominated for major Crufts award

A 14 year-old girl who was diagnosed with stage three Hodgkin’s lymphoma and credits her dogs and agility for getting her through chemotherapy; a 17 year old and her dog who tirelessly volunteer in their local community; a 14 year old boy who became his family’s rock after a family member fell ill; a young girl who has excelled in the world of agility since getting her first dog three years ago; and two sisters who spend their time raising thousands for charity, have all been announced as the finalists in a national competition that rewards remarkable and inspiring young people.

The Kennel Club, which runs the world’s greatest dog show, Crufts, has announced these youngsters, who are all Young Kennel Club (YKC) members, as finalists for the prestigious Young Person of the Year award, which celebrates the hard-working, inspirational and selfless actions of young dog lovers.

The Young Person of the Year award is the highest award for young dog lovers and celebrates those who are demonstrating their love of dogs as well as encouraging others to make a difference with the help of their dogs. The winner of the competition, selected by a public vote, is announced at Crufts, on Sunday 11th March.

For over thirty years, Ed and Cindy McAlpine have presented the Shaun McAlpine Trophy to the winner of the award at Crufts, in memory of their son who sadly died. Shaun had himself achieved considerable success as a dog handler.

Previous winners of the annual competition have been selected for their volunteering and fundraising for dog charities, helping to organise dog activities in the local community and for assisting others through training, stewarding and mentoring.

This year the finalists are:

•           Champion Volunteer of the Year

Chloe Smith, aged 17, from Brackley, Northamptonshire is a very outgoing teenager who is extremely passionate about volunteering for a wide range of clubs and organisations. Since owning and training her own dog, Ziggy, she has been committed to helping others achieve their goals and be given the same opportunities that she has had herself. One of her main activities is volunteering at Brackley and Buckingham District Dog Training Club, where she helps to train dogs to Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme gold standard. She has been an inspiration to members of the group and has encouraged them to participate in events including the YKC Newark training day, where she volunteered as a team leader.

Chloe often helps people in her local community who are having difficulties with their dogs and is a great ambassador for agility and training. She is role model to other children and always has time to give them advice. Chloe teaches them about perseverance, resilience, balance and how important it is to be passionate about a hobby or interest.

She also regularly volunteers at the local riding for the disabled (RDA) stables and helps out at local farms during busy times like lambing season. Chloe is an active member of the local wildlife trust and helps out at the local nature reserve and is currently volunteering one afternoon a week at vets4pets in Buckingham, whilst also balancing her training with the demands of GCSEs and her dreams of pursuing a career in veterinary medicine.

•           Young Braveheart of the Year

14 year-old Lauren Ashby from Horsham, West Sussex was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma Stage 3 in January last year when she was just 13 years old. The cancer was in her neck, throat, chest and spleen. This devastated the family and after undergoing surgery a few weeks later, Lauren started the painful and exhausting process of chemotherapy for six months.

Lauren has always been dog mad. She started taking part in agility three years ago with the family Cocker Spaniel/Springer Spaniel cross, Meg and became instantly hooked. After she got Percy, a Cocker Spaniel/Poodle cross in the summer of 2016 she began training him as soon as she could, but just seven months after they started training she was diagnosed and her life changed forever. Lauren was determined not to let it stop her taking part in what she loved. Even after her diagnosis, some of her first initial questions were related to agility training and what she would still be able to do.

Throughout the chemo and surgery she set herself goals and targets to try and reach with Meg and Percy, training them a few minutes a day when she wasn’t in hospital. The chemotherapy Lauren was having affected her muscle strength greatly, but she somehow still managed to get herself around an agility course – something the doctors were amazed by. She even competed in an agility competition at Easter whilst going through chemo, after her blood levels allowed her to be outside. The tactical side of agility always allowed Lauren to be thinking about what she would be doing to improve and train the dogs when she was stuck in hospital or at home for days on end, unable to attend school due to treatment. Having a passion for something kept her going through some truly horrendous side effects.

Lauren’s bravery throughout last year and her passion for agility gave her a purpose and focus to getting her through treatment. Lauren carried on training and competing when possible as it was a lifeline to trying to feel some sense of normality during such a traumatic time.

Unfortunately, since being nominated for Young Braveheart of the Year, Lauren’s cancer has sadly returned and she will be seeking further treatment over the course of the year. However despite the worst, Lauren is just as determined as ever to channel her love and passion for agility and her dogs to make it through this difficult time.

•           Good Buddy of the Year

14 year-old Bailey Anderson from Dumfries, is a very inspirational young man who always strives to help others along with his love of dogs and his many hobbies.

His family have been going through a tough time after his older cousin, Jackson became extremely unwell. Bailey has been a strong support to his family during this difficult time, and has shown courage and compassion beyond his years by staying with his cousin through treatments and during night shifts to make sure that he has everything he needs.  Bailey also organised and took part in a 30 mile sponsored cycle to help raise funds for his cousin, which helped towards providing him with the private treatment he needed to improve his quality of life.

In the dog world, Bailey helps show his mum and auntie’s Boxers and enjoys the challenge of showing other breeds big or small. In 2014, he was a finalist in the Scottish Kennel Club’s Junior Handler of the Year competition. Bailey also helps to steward at the Annandale and Penrith dog shows and helps out at Dumfries and Galloway dog show helping with set up and take down at the end of the show.

Outside of the dog world, Bailey is a valued member of the Army Cadet Force and received the Most Improved Cadet award in 2016. Through the cadets, he helps pensioners with their shopping and gardening and even makes time to work on his own mascot business. Bailey is also a Young Curler and competes at national level and represents his school.

•           Sporting Talent of the Year

16 year-old Hannah Thorp found that her life changed as soon as she got her first dog, Izzie, a Border Collie/Poodle crossbreed, three years ago. Over the years, Izzie and Hannah have grown to be best friends, and the pair began training and competing in agility as soon as they were able.

After getting to grade 7 in their first season competing, they were selected to represent YKC Agility Team GB at the European Open Junior Championships in Luxembourg, where they returned with a bronze medal in the individual agility round – on Izzie’s third birthday. Less than a month later, they came second in the medium championship final at the world’s largest agility event, the Kennel Club International Agility Festival in August, where they also qualified for the YKC Agility Dog of the Year semi-final at Crufts 2018 and the Kennel Club Olympia Agility Stakes finals in December 2017.

However the best part of the journey for Hannah is the true passion and unrivalled joy they have together, having fun, making friends and lots of memories. Hannah and Izzie have a real love for agility and an inspiring growth as a partnership, both on and off the agility course. Hannah is a great ambassador for the dog agility world, and always puts 100% into everything she does. She is an inspiration to young and old agility handlers and has really excelled in the canine activity with Izzie and her other dog, Baxter.

•           Fundraiser of the Year

Sisters, Teigan (14 years old) and Alana (11 years old) Harp-Jones from Holyhead, Gwynedd, are not your average siblings. Their passion and dedication to raising funds for charity through dog events and fundraising centred on the dog world is truly outstanding.

Teigan and Alana raised £1,720 at the Anglesey CS limit dog show, where they set up a fun companion dog show alongside the main show. This amount was matched by bank Santander who attended the show and organised the raffle ticket sales. The girls raised £2,500 from both shows for the TLC Appeal, Teddies for Loving Care, who donate teddy bears to the local A&E to be given to distressed children receiving treatment. Their achievements were recognised by the Welsh Assembly Minister for Ynys Mon, Rhun ap Iorwerth, who wrote to thank them personally for their wonderful efforts for young children.

Recently they have raised £2,015 for Cancer Research Wales by organising and running a companion dog show at the Welsh Kennel Club Championship Show and organising auctions for a Stuart Mallard print and a signed Welsh rugby shirt.

The sisters also enjoy dog showing themselves and regularly handle their Dachshunds and Shih Tzus in breed and YKC stakes classes, achieving success in all that they take part in. Their dedication to the world of dogs is commendable and deserving of recognition.

~~~ Speaking about the finalists, Young Kennel Club Chairman, Gerald King, said: “We are truly in awe at the passion, dedication, bravery and selflessness of our Young Kennel Club members – especially these six incredible finalists. They are a credit to their generation and will no doubt inspire many of their peers for years to come.

“Every year we receive amazing entries for young people and everyone who received a nomination should be proud of what they have achieved.

“Our finalists’ stories really highlight the difference that a dog can make in a person’s life or vice versa. We are looking forward to welcoming them to Crufts and seeing who the public have chosen as the winner of the Young Person of the Year award in March.”

The overall winner will be decided via an online vote open to all, which can be found at www.crufts.org.uk/content/whats-on/ykc-young-person-of-the-year-award/.

The finalists in each category have been invited to Crufts 2018 on Sunday 11th March for a special presentation ceremony and each will receive an exclusive YKC ambassador’s badge and award. As well as being crowned the Young Person of the Year, there is a prize fund up to £750 which will be used towards helping the winner progress their love of dogs.

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