Video report by ITV News Correspondent Nina Nannar
When Harry Steel suffered a double family tragedy – losing both his father and uncle within a year – he chose to turn his energy to preventing other people suffering like his family.
Through fundraising efforts ranging from sponsored walks and scaling London’s O2 Arena to sitting in a pool of baked beans in Gateshead, the 11-year-old has raised thousands of pounds for cancer and heart charities. Harry is modest about what he has achieved, saying it is “not really a big deal”. But his mother Lisa could not be prouder of how he has overcome adversity.
“Turning tragedies into a positive, just throwing himself into it, he’s an inspiration because not many young kids at his age would do anything like that, never mind go through what Harry’s been through and then decide to fundraise,” she said.
Harry, from Wallsend, was eight years old when his uncle David White died from a sudden cardiac arrest, aged 36, in June 2015. Eleven months later, his father Steve died just three weeks after being diagnosed with cancer.
Lisa says she was frightened that the “devastating” losses would make her son “go off the rails” – but that was when he decided to start raising money. Harry says his friends and family got him through the darkest days and that now he just wants to try to help other people, trying not to think about the bad times.
And there are happy moments he still looks back on with his dad. “Every year near Christmas we always used to go out and put the lights up together,” he said. “And we’d make stuff and build stuff together.” At his school, Harry’s teachers and classmates alike sing his praises for the way he has handled the despair and had a positive influence on others.
“We’re immensely proud,” said Churchill Community College headteacher David Baldwin. “He is an inspiration not just to his friends, but to me and the other staff in terms of how you can cope in life and make real positives out of that and then think ‘what more can I do for other people?’
“He’s been so giving of his time and his talents in order to help other people, it’s a real inspiration for the whole school.”
Harry’s future fundraising plans include abseiling and an awareness walk. His mum says Harry’s father would be “bursting with pride” to see what he has achieved, not just in fundraising, but in supporting her.
Turning to her son, Lisa says: “I just think you’re one amazing kid Harry and I just want to thank you for being my rock.”
“Thanks for being there when I needed you,” Harry replies.
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