Lewis Hine - Special Recognition

Life hasn’t been easy for Lewis Hine. Diagnosed with a brain tumour when he was just 17 months old, he has been battling illness ever since.

He has had 13 brain surgeries as well as other operations and treatments. He also suffers with hydrocephalus and drug-resistant epilepsy. There is no cure for Lewis and he spends much of his time in hospital. He knows he needs more brain surgery and faces daily seizures and crippling pain.

But despite his own challenges, Lewis, 17, is determined to help others. And in 2015 he focused on a cause close to his heart - to make sure every child has a friend. Having spent so much time on hospital wards, he knows how difficult it is to make friends.

Every time he returned to school, he found that his group of mates had moved on. “I never got invited to birthday parties or to anyone’s house after school,” he says. “I felt isolated and alone.” His mum, Emma, adds: “He used to say: ‘I wish there were two Lewises and I was the one that wasn’t ill.”

Lewis decided to help bring together other poorly kids who might feel lonely, and built the charity Friend Finder Official. Through fortnightly events such as wheelchair basketball and pizza nights, he’s helped more than 200 sick and disabled children who struggle to make friends come together.

The charity really took off when, on his 16th birthday, Lewis bravely posted a video on Facebook to challenge the stereotypes around disability. He said: “People say I’m disabled as if it’s a bad thing, but I say I’m lucky. I know what my challenges are and I never take anything for granted. My illness might define the length of my life, but it won’t define how I live it.”

The poignant video went viral - to date it’s at 31 million views - and even reduced Sir Elton John to tears. The superstar rung Lewis out of the blue to tell him how proud he was. Recalling the moment, Lewis said: “He was so proud to hear there was someone out there supporting children with disabilities and trying their hardest to make a difference."

As donations flooded in from around the world, Lewis decided to throw a huge prom for sick children who had missed theirs to have their own party. The big-hearted teen organised candy floss and popcorn machines, a red carpet and even prom dresses so the girls could feel like princesses on the glittering night last summer.

His mum Emma, said: “There were these incredible kids walking down the red carpet with breathing tubes, oxygen tanks and wheelchairs, and they were smiling and dancing as their mums cried with happiness. It’s so much more than a prom. It’s about making friends and realising that you’re not alone.”

Lewis said: “I truly believe that having a friend is one of the essential things in life to help your physical and mental wellbeing. It’s important to talk, to smile and laugh.”

Mum, Emma, couldn’t agree more. “What he is doing for other children is so special. I’m so, so proud of him.”