Five inspirational young people nominated for major Crufts award

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 judges and will now face a public vote, with the overall winner to be announced at Crufts, on Sunday 12 March.

For over 35 years, the Shaun McAlpine Trophy has been presented to the winner of the award at Crufts, in memory of Ed and Cindy McAlpine’s son who was tragically killed in a car accident aged 22. 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 – Jessie Harrison

Celebrating young people who have overcome personal challenges with their dog as well as the skills they have developed to achieve success in 2022.

Jessie Harrison, aged 11, from West Midlands, has overcome extreme anxiety and low confidence to not only achieve her own goals, but has used her experience to help others around her. Having had a difficult time at school, she turned to dog training in 2019 with her Cavachon, Woody, as an outlet to find confidence. Sadly this was put on pause during Covid but they came back and achieved the Good Citizen Dog scheme Gold Award – the highest level of achievement within the scheme. Jessie now uses what she has learnt to help her peers with training their dogs as well, whilst also playing a vital role within a number of charity events, raising money for dog charities.

Personal Achievement Award winner – Izzy King

Celebrating young people who have overcome personal challenges with their dog as well as the skills they have developed to achieve success.

In 2020, Izzy King, now 17, from Kent, was diagnosed with a vascular malformation tumour, for which she is still undergoing treatment at Great Ormond Street Hospital. Not only affecting her physical health, the diagnosis had a huge impact on her mental health, and also resulted in her missing 60% of school time. Despite all these setbacks, Izzy passed all of her GCSEs and is currently studying A Levels, with the ultimate career goal of opening her own canine photography studio.

Izzy has been helped through her illness by MIND, and in 2021 she ran an online dog show, raising £2100 for the charity, to say thank you.

Sporting Talent Award winner – Ryan Feehan

Celebrating young people who show real passion and dedication for competing or training their dog/s in 2022.

At 14, Ryan Feehan, from Great Yarmouth, is the youngest member of his dog agility club (alongside his Jack Russell Terrier, Mitsi). However, he has proven that age is nothing but a number, having achieved grade 7 (the highest level) and travelled to Finland last year to compete as part of the Junior Team GB agility team. Ryan raised funds for this trip by himself, alongside his sister, showing the commitment and passion he has for agility.

Compassion Award winner – Faith Elkins

Celebrating young people who dedicate their time volunteering to help others and gone over and above what would be expected of them in 2022.

At just ten years old, Faith Elkins, from Devon  has shown true dedication to her favourite hobby – dog agility, devoting much of her time outside of school to not only taking part in shows with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Cassie, but also to volunteering, proving her competence in all areas of ring management. Despite her age, she has shown a vast amount of knowledge and expertise in agility and always helps out her friends and fellow competitors at shows.  

Inspiring Others Award winner – Emer Wright

Celebrating young people and their dogs who, through their positive attitude and inspirational approach, have proved to be a good role model in 2022.

Emer Wright, aged 24, from Ireland has dedicated her life to dogs. Her favourite breed is the Japanese Shiba Inu, which she also owns. As such, she is extremely passionate about both the breed and the world of dogs, and devotes much of her time to encouraging young people to get involved with taking part in activities with their dogs, especially showing. She is Secretary of the Irish Junior Handler’s Association of Ireland, a voluntary role, through which she organises events, competitions and fundraisers.

In the last ten years, alongside her dogs she has achieved 16 Irish Champions, 5 International Champions and a UK Champion. 

Speaking about the finalists, Vanessa McAlpine, Kennel Club Events and Youth Development Executive said: “We are so proud of these five young finalists, who demonstrate a level of determination, commitment and passion that exemplifies the ethos of the Young Kennel Club.

“It is always such a difficult task to select just five from the many inspirational entries that we receive each year, but everyone who received a nomination should be so proud of their achievements. Our members are such a credit to themselves, their dogs and their families.

“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, which can be found on The Kennel Club website.

The finalists in each category have been invited to Crufts 2023 on Sunday 12 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.