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13th Tachwedd 2020

YouTube sensation Saffron Barker surprised a young carer from Kent with a coveted National Lottery Award, for her tireless work in the local community and for NHS staff, during lockdown.

Caitlin Walker and her National Lottery Award

Caitlin Walker, 16, has autism, OCD and severe anxiety, and also helps look after her father who suffered a life-changing injury in a car accident two years ago. After suffering a breakdown, she continued her education through home schooling. This meant that when GCSE exams were cancelled due to Covid-19, she was unable to gain any qualifications because many external candidates are not allowed to use predicted grades.

While it was an extremely challenging time for Caitlin, who volunteers at Youth Resilience UK, a National Lottery funded organisation providing school children with skills to improve their emotional and mental resilience, she began providing much-needed support to her local community, especially her neighbours who were self-isolating. She started daily shopping runs on her bike, doctor and chemist visits, checking in on people and keeping them company through windows, baking cakes and making masks.

Caitlin and her sister also set up a Facebook group to help staff on the NHS frontline. They started a collection amongst the group’s 3,000 members for donated items and made up 15 bags of essential items for ICU staff members as a thank you.

Now Caitlin has been named winner of the Young Hero Category at the 2020 National Lottery Awards which saw 5000 nominations cast from all over the UK and it was YouTube-turned-Strictly-star Saffron Barker who broke the news to a very surprised Caitlin via video message- after being told she was being filmed to talk about the volunteering she has done during lockdown.

“I was so shocked when I saw Saffron on the screen in front of me and even more surprised when she said I had won the Young Hero Award! I didn’t see myself as a hero- I was just doing what I thought everyone should do for those that need it- but I’m so happy to receive the trophy and be recognised for what I have been doing these last 6 months. I hope to continue helping as many people as I can as we go into a second lockdown.”

Caitlin said:

‘Everyone’s world has been turned upside down lately and it has been a real challenge for many. Caitlin is such an inspiration with everything she has done, despite her own battles. She is so deserving of this award and I was so honoured to be the one to name her Young Hero at this year’s National Lottery Awards. Well done Caitlin.’

Saffron Barker, who has spoken candidly about her own mental health in the past, added:

‘I can’t express how proud I am of Caitlin for how well she has coped over the last couple of years and especially the last few challenging months. She constantly puts others first and is such a caring and kind person- and I get to call my daughter! She has managed to grow and learn a lot through the work she has done at Youth Resilience UK and she’s an inspiration to everyone there. Thank you to National Lottery players for giving us the chance to help other youngsters in our area grow in confidence and really make a difference in our community’.

Caitlin’s mum, Kelly said,

Almost 5,000 extraordinary individuals were nominated for a 2020 National Lottery Award – the annual search for the UK’s favourite National Lottery funded people and projects.

They celebrate the inspirational individuals who do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding.
In September 2019, Youth Resilience UK, founded by Caitlin’s mum Kelly, was awarded a £9,680 grant to offer enhanced resilience skills to their members. The project will now receive a £3,000 cash prize in recognition of Caitlin’s work.

National Lottery players raise around £30 million to good causes every week. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, The National Lottery has distributed support packages of up to £600 million across arts, sports, heritage, education and the environment.