Warrington schoolgirl, Jessica Ward has won one of the most prestigious awards for young people at the world’s greatest dog show, Crufts on Sunday (March 10th).
Jessica, 8, who not only sold her toys to raise funds for a dog grooming table, but also organised and completed a mini marathon to raise money for a local hospice, has been named as the winner of the Shaun McAlpine Outstanding Young Person Award.
Run by the Young Kennel Club (YKC) for its members, the award celebrates young people’s efforts and achievements within the dog world, and 22 inspiring young people were selected for the final, all with their own unique and inspiring stories.
Each finalist was celebrated as their individual stories impressed judges and audiences alike, but it was Jessica’s story that shone through. Jessica's endless passion for helping others has seen her raise money for various charities and her love of dogs resulted in her selling her own toys to get to Crufts, the world’s greatest dog show.
In 2011, Jessica was diagnosed with epilepsy and turned to dogs to help her cope with her illness but it wasn’t until last year when she got her own dog, Twist, as his previous owner joined the army. Since then the pair have taken part in the European Flyball Championships, as well as obedience and heelwork to music competitions. Earlier in the week at Crufts, Jessica was awarded first place in the YKC Heelwork to Music Competition.
Jessica’s mum, Rachel Ward said: “We are just in a state of shock - it is mind blowing. Jessica really loved every minute of Crufts - everyone was lovely, especially the Young Kennel Club people who made it all very special, and the crowd was amazing too.”
The Shaun McAlpine Outstanding Young Person Award is the highest level of achievement for the country’s young dog owners. Presented by the Young Kennel Club, the award acknowledges those young people who have excelled through their involvement with dogs, such as working to raise funds or increase awareness for charity, helping to organise dog activities in their area or succeeding in dog showing or training.
For over 25 years, Ed and Cindy McAlpine have presented the Shaun McAlpine Trophy and awards at Crufts in memory of their son Shaun who was tragically killed in a road accident two weeks after his 22nd birthday in November 1984. The trophy is awarded annually to encourage young dog lovers to become more involved in dog activities, as Shaun himself had achieved considerable success as a dog handler.
Parents, trainers and teachers have been contacting the YKC team since the start of the year to nominate young achievers to be applauded for their efforts in the world of dogs.
Caroline Kisko, Communications Director of the Kennel Club, commented: “We have had some inspiring stories this year, it is great to see the wonderful work our young people do. Jessica and her friends and family should be very proud, as she is such a great example of young people working with dogs to help their community.”
The special presentation took place on Sunday March 10th at the NEC in Birmingham where the winners of the four different categories – Rufus Club (under 6’s), 6-11 years, 12-16 years and 17-24 years were announced in the Young Kennel Club Ring at the event before Jessica was called forward as the overall winner.
For further information about Crufts visit www.crufts.org.uk. If you would like to find out more about the Young Kennel Club and how to join please contact the Young Kennel Club team on 020 7518 1030 or visit www.ykc.org.uk.
For free downloadable images from Crufts 2013, please go to http://www.w-w-i.com/crufts_2013/.
12th March 2013