Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft hails Duke of Edinburgh's Award for shaping her life as summer challenge launched

As a challenge to inspire, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has made its mark on countless young people, raising aspirations and transforming lives for the betterment of communities.

Thursday, 10th June 2021, 11:57 am
Updated Thursday, 10th June 2021, 12:04 pm
Halifax's Hannah Cockroft

Now, as a fundraising challenge is launched on what would have been the Duke’s 100th birthday, Paralympic champion Hannah Cockroft has spoken of how Prince Philip’s legacy helped changed her life.

The five-times Paralympian and 12-times World Champion wheelchair sprinter, who as a 14-year-old at school in Halifax had “hated” her wheelchair, now credits the DofE Award with putting her on a pathway into sport.

Having realised she couldn’t complete the Bronze Award’s hike without the support of her wheelchair, the now 28-year-old said, she had begun to embrace how it was to shape her life.

“The expedition was a massive part of me accepting who I was,” said Ms Cockroft, who is today revealed as captain of the North for the new four-part, four-week Do It 4 Youth challenge.

“It was the beginning of accepting that my wheelchair is a part of me, and letting my friends see that part of me.

“It’s safe to say I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t done it,” she added. “It was a massive turning point.”

Today’s launch of Do It 4 Youth, a DofE inspired challenge, is aimed at raising funds to support young people from the toughest of backgrounds.

The ambition is to share the opportunities given through the DofE, in helping young people build a lifelong self-belief and to find a strength and courage they may never have known they had.

The tasks are to ‘get up’, choosing a physical exercise, to ‘skill up’, to ‘free up’ by giving up something like sugar or social media, and to ‘hand up’ by lending a hand in communities.

Ms Cockroft, as part of the challenge, has pledged to give up late nights and to improve her skills in the kitchen through a ‘bake off’ with fellow team captain Ashley, aged 14 and from Salford.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from,” she said. “Everybody can learn something. The DofE is such a legacy for the Duke.

"Also it’s just fun. We’ve been months sat inside, wondering what we can do next - this is it. This can be whatever we want it to be.”

Other familiar faces to join Ms Cockroft as co-captains with young people are guitarist for The Vamps James McVey, Invictus Games medallist JJ Chalmers, actor Oliver Phelps, and journalist Alice Beer. Each captain is paired with a young DofE Award holder.

Opportunities such as the DofE are needed now more than ever, organisers have said, to draw on discovery for new skills and self-belief, but a number of entrants need financial hardship or support. As little as £30 in sponsorship can help a young person get boots for their expedition.

Helen Foster, DofE director for the North, said just to do the challenge is to commemorate the Duke’s “living legacy” that is even today transforming lives.

“We would have liked to be celebrating his 100th birthday with the Duke, but we know he would be so proud of the challenge we are launching,” she said. “He would be so excited."

The DofE award, she said, has supported millions of young people around the world in developing skills they may not have known they had.

"It builds resilience and enables them to do adventurous things, which is needed so much at the moment," she said. "When you talk to young people, they say it has made a massive difference.

"It's never needed more that right at this moment in time," she added. "Restrictions have meant young people have been really isolated, they haven't had that opportunity in communities and with peers to push themselves and build that confidence."

The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, founded in 1956 by Prince Philip, was inspired by his own Moray Badge at Gordonstoun School, in the ambition of helping young people find and grow their own strengths.

Now recognised as a world-leading youth achievement award, some 6.7m young people have taken part, including 17,777 who started in Yorkshire just last year.

The four-part, four-week Do It 4 Youth challenge, which must be completed by the end of September, is a taster to raise money to help people take part from the toughest of backgrounds.

The challenge is open to anyone and is a chance for those who have never done DofE to get a taste of what it might have been like. Those who raises £100 or more will receive a commemorative pin. To sign up to Do It 4 Youth visit www.dofe.org/doit4youth

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