A Leighton Buzzard student has been singled out for national recognition for excelling in the face of adversity and inspiring confidence in other young girls.

Eden Hays, 11, claimed the Inspirational Inclusive Leader prize at the Youth Sport Trust Young Changemaker Awards held at St Ermin’s Hotel in Westminster.

Hays has dwarfism and is epileptic and while both have taken a toll on her confidence and mental health, it has not stopped her getting involved in sport.

Eden competes in para-dressage, para vaulting and also takes part in the Dwarf Games, competing for Brooklands Middle School in all mainstream events along with the Invictus festivals.

Eden became a leader in the Youth Sport Trust Girls Active programme at Brooklands, inspiring others with her resilience and confidence to take part. Eden's dedication to inclusivity and her role in mainstream and Invictus events make her an exemplary leader. She received the award for her continuous strength and encouragement for others.

Upon winning her award, Eden said: “When I told my friends they were over the moon for me, they were hugging and screaming, one of them was crying. My nan and grandad cried too but they were very happy with me and over the moon.

“I was going into PE and my teacher pulled me to the side and told me I’d won the award. I thought I was in trouble at first and I hate being in trouble, I was on the verge of crying. But when I was told I thought it might be a joke. I was so happy and so proud of myself.

“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, anyone can win this award, so I was so over the moon.

“I used to have anxiety because a lot of things have been said to me, but I have this award and nobody can take this away from me, so I’ve learnt a lot.”

The Youth Sport Trust Young Changemaker Awards recognise young people from across the UK and internationally who’ve worked alongside the charity to use the power of Sport and Play, to make a real impactful change to their lives and the lives of others.

A host of sporting stars presented awards to the seven winners including Dame Katherine Grainger, the first British woman to win medals at five successive Olympic games and Olympic gold medallist Duncan Goodhew MBE who also co-founded the charity back in 1995, among a star-studded guest list.

Eden received her award from seven-time Paralympic Champion Hannah Cockroft OBE. In response to Eden’s story Hannah said: “She’s such a character. When I watch her, I honestly don’t think there could have been a more powerful and deserving recipient of this award.

“She’s very passionate about what she does, and she deserves to be on that stage because it’s difficult having a disability and growing up with one, it’s incredibly different to anyone else’s upbringing.

“But she hasn’t let that hold her back, she’s taken leadership roles and taught other girls skills – I can’t imagine me doing that at 11-years-old, so to see her doing it is absolutely incredible.”

You can find out more about each of the winners and view their winners’ films on the Youth Sport Trust website here

The Young Changemaker Awards were preceded by an announcement earlier in the day that Sir Mo Farah has partnered with the charity as their new National School Sport Champion. Together, the Youth Sport Trust and Sir Mo launched Mo’s Mission to ensure that all young people are active in line with the UK Chief Medical Officer’s recommended minimum of ‘60 minutes a day - of PE, Sport and Play’.

Mo’s Mission is underpinned by the Youth Sport Trust’s new manifesto for change which sets out five key recommendations to create a nation of active and well schools which give every child the chance to be active for at least 60 minutes day.

You can read more about Mo’s Mission and the Youth Sport Trust manifesto here.