Brave little Ben Hawkins was named Child of the Year at the NI4kids Family Awards this week.
After thousands of nominations were put forward, five year old Ben was named as the winner at a hero-filled awards ceremony at Belfast City Hall on Monday.
Ben is very different from other children his age, in that he suffers from severe Dystonic Cerebral Palsy and has a lot of other complex needs. Although his mother, Kerry, had a healthy pregnancy, she suffered a placenta abruption when Ben was born and he was starved of oxygen.
“Ben was the first baby at Craigavon Area Hospital to be therapeutically cooled,” Kerry explains. “He spent nine days on life support - after that, he started fighting.”
Ben has continued to fight, and his parents, Gordon and Kerry, have fought alongside him - committing their lives to support their bubbly and cheerful little superhero.
“Ben is fed through a tube into his bowel, as his little tummy isn’t able to cope with food,” Gordon shares.
He is the happiest child!Gordon Hawkins
“He has never tasted ice cream or chocolate - his life is very different from other children his age.”
In 2013, Ben took unwell again when he suffered a cardiac arrest while on life support. He battled for his life in Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital but, once again, Ben proved to be a little miracle. Despite his condition - he is also deaf and unable to speak - he has already been living life to the full, alongside his two brothers, 10 year old Ashley and eight year old Matthew.
“He is the happiest child!” says Gordon. “Last year we travelled to the Isle of Man with the Make-A-Wish foundation. We used to go there a lot but, after Ben’s time on life support a few years ago, we decided we couldn’t go back. The trip was incredible for Ben - and we had VIP treatment the entire time! It was brilliant to have that time as a family.”
Ben joined other nominees from across the country at the NI4kids ceremony, which took the form of a superhero gala - with special appearances from Batman, Iron Man, and more.
“It was amazing,” Kerry shares. “We had nominated Ben for the award and, unbeknownst to us, all of our friends had too! We couldn’t believe it when he won - everyone at our table had tears in their eyes!”
Gordon, who was nominated for the Dad of the Year award, echoes the Hawkins’ family’s absolute love for Ben: “We want to share Ben’s story to encourage other parents. The people of Portadown have voted for him. He’s pretty unique. Ben is here when nature said he shouldn’t be - he’s the true superhero.”