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 10 March.
For 39 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:
Compassion Award winner – Amèlie Smith, aged 15, from Derbyshire
Celebrating young people who dedicate their time volunteering to help others and have gone over and above what would be expected of them.
Amèlie has a very special relationship with her younger sister, who has complex special needs. Amélie has not only been an adoring older sister but also plays an undeniably important role in her sister's life as a carer. Amèlie has always been very protective and nurturing of her sister, and has evolved into playing a more mature and caring role, and she helps her with everything from getting dressed, getting around, to helping her with eating and drinking. With such a lot of responsibility, Amèlie finds respite and community in her favourite hobby, helping out those new to dog showing at her local ringcraft club, through holding extra training classes to helping with seminars.
Personal Achievement Award winner – Poppy Coleby, aged 18, from Northumberland
Celebrating young people who have overcome personal challenges with their dogs as well as the skills they have developed to achieve success.
Over the last two years, Poppy has been diagnosed with Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction/dysautonomia, Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), Vasovagal Syncope and Ehlos Danlos Syndrome. As a result, Poppy has had to cope with a number of debilitating symptoms, such as regular dizzy spells, brain fog, joint pain and frequent joint dislocations as well as an abnormal heart rate and high blood pressure, among others. Despite all these setbacks, Poppy has maintained her devotion to her dogs and passion for agility, and will be heading to Crufts for the third time, with her dogs Jackson and Sky. Not only that, Poppy also earned a silver medal at the ParAgility World Championships in Italy.
Sporting Talent Award winner – Gemma MacKenzie, aged 14, from Midlothian
Celebrating young people who show real passion and dedication for competing or training their dogs.
Having only started showing in December 2022, Gemma has demonstrated significant dedication to both her dogs and her newfound hobbies, including handling, grooming and breed showing, as well as scheduling her own regular training sessions across obedience, agility and trick training. In just over a year, Gemma has amassed a number of awards including a Championship show group win and has also qualified for YKC handling and grooming at Crufts 2024, as well as the Scottish Junior Handler of the Year final, for the second time.
Inspiring Others Award winner – Emily Dabb, aged 18, from Lincolnshire
Celebrating young people and their dogs who, through their positive attitude and inspirational approach, have proved to be a good role model.
Emily has been a member of the Brigg Muttley Crew flyball team since 2018, and this year will be competing as part of the YKC Flyball team at Crufts, where, as the oldest handler on the team, has proved to be an inspirational role model to the younger members of the team. She has also spent a lot of time persevering with training her rescue Border Collie, Dolly. Emily has tried numerous training techniques and recently managed to successfully compete with her.
Speaking about the finalists, Helen Kerfoot, Young Kennel Club spokesperson said: “Well done to our four finalists – they are truly an inspiration, and a credit to themselves, their families and, of course, their dogs.
“Every year we receive amazing nominations and it is always such a difficult task to whittle these down, but we are so proud of everything our extraordinary YKC members have achieved.
“We are looking forward to welcoming our finalists to Crufts and seeing who the public have chosen as the winner of the Young Person of the Year award in March.”
The finalists in each category have been invited to Crufts 2024 on Sunday 10 March for a special presentation ceremony and each will receive an exclusive YKC ambassador’s badge and award. The Kennel Club Educational Trust will be awarding £100 to all category winners, with an additional £350 to the overall winner at Crufts.
Crufts, which celebrates dogs from all walks of life, takes place from 7-10 March at the NEC in Birmingham and tickets are available here