Inspirational Cambridgeshire young people recognised at YOPEY awards

Overall winner Adam Olivant with Cambs Deputy Lieutenant Tom Green.

Overall winner Adam Olivant with Cambs Deputy Lieutenant Tom Green. - Credit: Archant

A young man who has become a mentor to the victims of homophobic bullying is Cambridgeshire’s Young Person of the Year.

Finalists, dignitaries and sponsors.

Finalists, dignitaries and sponsors. - Credit: Archant

Adam Olivant won the top prize of £800 in the Linx Young People of the Year, held at Ely Cathedral on Wednesday.

The 19-year-old gives young people the support he was denied while a child at schools in Haverhill where his life was made hell by bullies.

By the time he had moved on to Long Road Sixth Form College in Cambridge, Adam had come out as gay.

At the sixth-form college he set up a Beat Bullying group and converted a Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) group

The five main winners with their cheques.

The five main winners with their cheques. - Credit: Archant

into a Gay-Straight Alliance.

Having left college this summer and started a job in IT at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, he is continuing to mentor the victims of bullying online for the charity Beat Bullying and may go back to Long Road to help the groups he started.

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Tom Green, a Deputy Lieutenant for Cambridgeshire, who presented Adam with his award, said: “It was not the bleakness of the back story that got the judges vote.

“It was what the young person does to help others and the sophistication of that offering that wins through.”

Zak Soan with the High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire Linda Fairbrother.

Zak Soan with the High Sheriff of Cambridgeshire Linda Fairbrother. - Credit: Archant

Adam, of Shetland Road, Haverhill, estimates he has mentored about 100 young people, both victims and bullies.

Adam said: “It is truly amazing to find out that I was the winner of the YOPEY. The money that has kindly been donated by the sponsors will go towards training new mentors to help others.”

Second place and a prize of £400 was won by partially sighted dog whisperer Zak Soan, 23, of Whittlesey.

He lost 80 per cent of his sight to a rare disease at the age of 18. He lost his job, some friends and suffered depression.

Yopey logo.

Yopey logo. - Credit: Archant

But, despite being registered blind, Zak volunteers for the Animal Helpline Centre in Wansford and walks between 15-25 dogs a day in woodland behind the centre.

Zak, who donated £200 of his winnings to the centre, said: “Dogs definitely helped me cope with becoming nearly blind.”

About coming second, he said: “I’m shocked because I’ve never come this far in anything before.

“The land is quite rough with sticks and stones sticking out in places, but once I have walked a particular path I remember it. If I fall over I just hang on to the dog and get back up again.”

Lynn Bradbury, of Animal Helpline Centre, added: “We would not be able to do half the work we do without his input. It’s good to see a young lad who has suffered give his time to help.”

The Junior YOPEY ­for the most inspiring entry aged up to 16 ­went to Harry O’Driscoll, who camped in the garden of his Buckden home for a whole year to raise £10,155 for his gymnastics club.

Fourteen-year-old Harry, of Lincoln Close, said: “Sleeping in the tent was scary during thunderstorms, but I had friends to stay with me some of the time.”

The £10,155 he raised went towards an £800,000 extension to Huntingdon Gymnastics Club, which has become more popular since two of its members ­Lewis Smith and Sam Oldham ­ won medals at the 2012 London Olympics.

Harry, who has been a gymnast since he was five and trains at the club 20 hours a week, said: “I did it so the elite athletes could train without children getting under their feet.”

He is donating £100 of his winnings to 1st Southoe & Buckden, who taught him how to camp, and putting the other £100 to a sports bicycle with which Imight do another fundraiser.

Joint third were Harriet Smith and Ameila Davies, who each won £100.

Harriet, of Wigmore Drive, Peterborough, donates £20 of her weekly £60 pay from a part-time job in a restaurant to Thorpe Hall Hospice.

She also climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa and raised more money for the hospice.

Amelia, of Weatherfield, is the sole carer for her disabled mum Petra and travels 70 miles each day by bus to study at Cambridge Regional College.

She gets up every weekday at 6am to prepare her mum for the day and catch a bus to Cambridge. When she returns she serves dinner to Petra but she also goes out to play netball and sing in a choir.

Eleven other young people were finalists in the 2014 Cambs YOPEY and given £50 donations for their good causes.

They were Caroline Daboo and Katie Holmes, of Cambridge, Girlguiding Cambs East; Nicole Wolfe, of Alconbury, Lisa Kent Trust; Callum Brown, of Haddenham, Soham Friends Project; Peterborough schoolboys Sercan Ustuner and Zeeshan Waseem Wateraid and Eduaid; Beth Spalding, of Huntingdon, for Headway Cambridgeshire; Ronnie Hill, of Wisbech, Winnicott Foundation and Kirsty Middleton, of St Neots, for Upside Down Club.

In a new initiative 11 young people were given grants of £25 each to start community projects.

They were Katie Brown of Buckden; Lily Andrew-Martin, Daniel Flack and Owen Davis of Sir Harry Smith Community

College, Whittlesey; Maggie Powell and Jessica Stanbridge of Cromwell Community College, Cahatteris; Jordan Holmes of St Neots; Matthew Waller of Colne; Michael Farrow of Welney; Shannon Barrow of March; Sohei Omoto of Impington Village College and Maria Wray of Great Cambourne.

As well as CRC and Linx, the international supplier of industrial printers based in St Ives, the other sponsors were LifePlus of St Neots, Hutchinsons of Wisbech, G¹s Fresh of Ely, TTP Group of Melbourn, ARM, Building Services Design, Cambridge Assessment, Kiss Communications, Stratagem IPM and Mathworks, all of Cambridge, and Peterborough Regional College.

The awards ceremony was put on at Ely Cathedral by about 20 sixth-formers from Ely College including Alexander Clover, Jonathan Hadleigh, Hannah Fortin, Zoe McGibbon, Chloe Mellers, Babin Tulachan, Georgia Russell, Sian Leech, Fady Moawad, Moses Adupa, Calvin Wong, Lauren Calder, Charlotte Wren, Molly Chapman, Jessica Courdelle, Rhianne Jones, Katie South, Alex Betson, Suzy Thomas, Jack Durham, Jessie Casey and Daniel Price. They did a range of jobs from front-of-house receptionists and presenters through film-makers and photographers’ assistants to behind-the-scene technicians.

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