A 24-year-old who is giving back to the community in memory of his mum; an 11-year-old who is already competing for her country in agility; a 14-year-old selflessly giving up his time to volunteer for others; a 15-year-old bravely fighting lymphoma with the support of her dogs; and a 23-year-old dedicating her time to dogs with behavioural problems have been revealed as the finalists in the YKC Young Person of the Year Award, a national competition that rewards remarkable and inspiring young people.
The Kennel Club, which runs the world’s greatest dog show, Crufts, has revealed the finalists for the prestigious YKC Young Person of the Year award. The accolade celebrates the dedicated, inspirational and selfless actions of young dog lovers, all of whom are members of the Young Kennel Club (YKC).
The YKC Young Person of the Year award is the highest achievement for young people who are passionate about dogs and recognises those who are going above and beyond to help transform the lives of others, as well as encouraging their peers to make a difference with the help of their canine friends.
The winners of each category have been chosen by the YKC team at the Kennel Club, and will now face a public vote, with the overall winner to be announced at Crufts, on Sunday 8th March.
For over 30 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’s finalists are:
Community Award winner – Ryan Hennessy
Celebrating young people who show commitment and passion through social action – fundraising, campaigning, activities at school, college or community for the welfare of dogs.
Ryan, aged 24, set up the organisation Forever Agility last year in memory of his mum, Ann, who passed away from cancer in March 2019. Ryan wanted to replicate the love and support shown by the agility community following Ann’s diagnosis, with the aim to be there for those who need help whilst facing life-limiting or long-term illnesses.
Forever Agility has helped others in a range of ways, from vet’s bills to travel costs, palliative care retreats to state-of-the-art medical equipment and mobility aids.
Volunteering Award winner – Jamie Smith
Celebrating young people who dedicate their time to helping others and gone over and above what would be expected of them.
Jamie, aged 14, volunteers his free time after school and at weekends to the national charity, the Cinnamon Trust, which helps organise volunteers to walk dogs for the elderly, terminally ill or housebound.
Along with his mum, Jamie walks Sam, a nine-year-old Dachshund, twice a week on behalf of Sam’s owner who is unable to walk. Jamie lost his dad last year and experienced the effects of terminal illness and not to be able to look after yourself, or a pet, so finds the time he spends with Sam and her owner very rewarding.
Personal Achievement Award winner – Georgina Kent
Celebrating young people who have overcome personal challenges with their dog as well as the skills they have developed to achieve success.
Georgina, aged 15, has recently completed a year of intensive treatment for lymphoma and has since begun a further 18 months of maintenance treatment. Georgina’s diagnosis came at the same time that their family had chosen a new Border Terrier puppy, Dylan, and he joined the family at the same time that Georgina returned from her first month’s stay in hospital.
Georgina credits Dylan’s beautiful nature with helping her to get better, and she has begun practising agility in the garden with both Dylan and his brother, Boo, ready to return to classes.
Sporting Talent Award winner – Taylor Lyon
Celebrating young people who show real passion and dedication for competing or training their dog.
Taylor, aged 11, has been taking part in agility since she was five years old and trained her own working Cocker Spaniel puppy, Elliott, in agility since that same time. Taylor has various accolades under her belt, including winning the Under 12 Medium YKC jumping last year as well as coming third in the YKC Agility Dog of the Year Final at Crufts.
Taylor was also selected to represent Junior Agility Team GB with both Elliott, and her friend’s Border Collie, Tariq, at the European Open Junior Agility Championships in Switzerland, winning two bronze medals.
Inspiring Others Award winner - Jodie Forbes
Celebrating young people and their dogs who through their positive attitude and inspirational approach have proved to be a good role model.
Jodie, aged 23, counts working with difficult and misunderstood dogs as the most important thing to her and in 2019, set up a dog training and behaviour academy called Make Your Mark, alongside her partner. Over the past year they have worked with over 100 dogs in a variety of activities that they would normally be unable to attend due to their behaviour problems.
Jodie regularly visits schools to teach and has also spoken publicly of her own struggles with mental health disorders and acceptance of neurodiversity, and how there can be so much more behind ‘problem behaviours’.
Speaking about the finalists, Vanessa McAlpine, Kennel Club Education Executive said: “These five young finalists are a credit to themselves, their dogs and their communities. They demonstrate a level of determination, passion, courage and selflessness that we are proud to see in our Young Kennel Club members.
“We receive so many inspirational entries for young people every year and it’s a tough task to select just five, but everyone who received a nomination should be so proud of their achievements.
“These stories prove how much a dog can impact someone’s life, and vice versa. We are looking forward to welcoming our finalists to Crufts and seeing who the public have chosen as the winner of the YKC 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 https://www.crufts.org.uk/dog-exhibitors/young-kennel-club/young-person-of-the-year-award/
The finalists in each category have been invited to Crufts 2020 on Sunday 8 March for a special presentation ceremony and each will receive an exclusive YKC ambassador’s badge and award. As well as being crowned the YKC Young Person of the Year, there is a prize fund of up to £750 which will be used towards helping the winner progress their love of dogs.