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WellChild Hopes and Dreams photo competition winners announced

WellChild Patron, Prince Harry, The Duke of Sussex was Chair of Judges as winners were chosen in a photographic competition called Hopes and Dreams: My Life through a Lens, for the children and young people WellChild supports.

By Charlotte Edwards · October 22, 2021

Entries came in from children nationwide illustrating what life is like for young people and families living with serious health needs. The competition celebrates the opening of the WellChild Art Auction 2021, supported by Christie’s, which is live online via global platform Artsy offering stunning contemporary art from 36 of the world’s most renowned artists to raise money for national charity WellChild’s work for seriously ill children

In addition to The Duke of Sussex, judges of the photographic competition included world renowned photographer David Yarrow, whose photograph ‘Aces and Eights’ is featured in the WellChild auction, TV presenters Gaby Roslin and Ed Chamberlin, WellChild Art Auction Curator Chris Westbrook, Imogen Clark, owner of Venture Photography Nick Fisher, and Creative Director of Venture Photography, Alicia Hall.

Winner of the photo competition is Ruby Smallman, 13, of Liverpool with her photo ‘Hope in an Oak’, second is Noah McNeill, 10, of Huddersfield with ‘Naked’, third is Rhea, 18, of Croyden with ‘Creating to Inspire, and succeeding to Achieve’ and fourth is Benjamin Morrison, 11, of Portsmouth with ‘The Slinky-ing Reading Master‘s Joy: Living with severe ASD and now seizure-free.

“The children and families I’ve had the honour of meeting over my years working with WellChild have shown incredible optimism, courage, and resilience. I wasn’t only proud to participate as a judge in this exhibition—I was deeply moved by each and every photograph, as they capture a moment and say so much about their personal story. Every person who is part of the WellChild family is a true inspiration. Congratulations to all the entries and a special cheer to the winners!”

The Duke of Sussex

Finalists will have their photos displayed online, at WellChild Art Auction 2021 events and at the prestigious WellChild Awards 2022. Each finalist will also receive a framed copy of their picture courtesy of Venture Photography. The overall winner will also receive a Venture Photography photo shoot experience for their family at their nearest Venture Studio, a follow up cinematic viewing of their images, and £1,000 towards a selection of beautifully presented framed photographs from the Venture collection chosen by the winner from their photo shoot.

The auction, which is WellChild’s flagship fundraiser of the year, has attracted works from artists including Ronnie Wood, David Yarrow, Anish Kapoor, Jake Chapman, David Mach and Richard Long, who are all donating and, in some cases, creating work for the charity’s 2021 collection. More than 30 artists have signed up to help WellChild raise urgent funds for its work, which has become a lifeline to families during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Working with some of the finest contemporary artists, Curator Chris Westbrook has assembled a fabulous array of work for The WellChild Art Auction 2021, which will be hosted online, via global platform Artsy, between the 15th and 29th of October, with a selection of pieces also included in Christie’s Modern British Art Day Sale on the 21st of October.

WellChild Chief Executive, Colin Dyer said: “The talent of the children and families who entered the Hopes and Dreams: My Life through a Lens competition is outstanding, and we thank them all for their contribution, a particular well done to our winners. We are excited to announce an incredible line-up of artists for our 2021 contemporary art collection, which has been expertly curated by Chris Westbrook. The importance of this year’s auction cannot be underestimated. COVID-19 saw WellChild lose 60% of our forecasted income and yet the demand for help from families caring for some of the most vulnerable children and young people in our society sky-rocketed. A huge thanks to all of the artists who have generously donated work for this year’s collection.”

The winning entries

A young girl stood in front of a large tree
First place - Ruby Smallman, 13; ‘Hope in an Oak’

Hope in an Oak – Ruby

It represents life because in the photo there is a big lucombe oak tree and a younger girl (my baby cousin) I see it as the tree is full of wisdom because we can guess that tree is hundreds of years old compared to the young soul entering the world for the first time. I feel like the tree is full of wisdom so it is teaching the younger soul about life as it’s entering the world. I took this picture in our park, it was my first time taking my cousin to the park so when she saw that tree she looked astonished and was mesmerised by the tree so I had to take the opportunity to take a picture of it.

This was a very special moment for me because of the pandemic we had not enjoyed any time together so when I took her to the park i love it felt like new beginnings for me and my cousin and showed how strong our bond is and will be forever. I hope you like my picture thank you Ruby.


Noah taking a selfie
Second place - Noah McNeill, 10; ‘Naked’

Naked – Noah

Noah took this photo at Whitby Abbey on 22nd August 2021. Whitby Abbey is the setting of Bram Stoker’s book, Dracula. We had just watched a play of Dracula within the grounds and Noah took this selfie with the famous Abbey in the background. In the photo, Noah appears naked and vulnerable like Dracula’s victims however when I asked him which of the characters he would most like to be he said ‘Jonathan Harker’ because he was the bravest when he killed Dracula. He said that Harker was a hero and saved the day. Noah said that he would also like to be a hero.

Note from mum: To us he is a total hero.

Rhea taking a selfie with her card making crafts
Third place - Rhea, 18; ‘Creating to Inspire, and succeeding to Achieve’

Creating to Inspire, and Succeeding to Achieve – Rhea

My name is Rhea and I am 18 years old. I have extremely complex health needs and fight every second of every day to stay alive, but I refuse to be defined by my disabilities. I am really proud of this photo I have taken. From a practical point of view, anyway seeing how this photo was taken you would have laughed!

Mummy was up a ladder behind me holding her phone, and then she held my right arm straight up towards the ceiling and guided my finger to press the button to take the photo! So I can proudly say it is all my work and this explains the odd angle of my arm on the right hand side!

My photo is of me and my workstation. Doing work experience was always on my Bucket List but COVID made this impossible, so instead I started my own business called Perfectly Imperfect Prints! I make greetings cards using my fingerprints, handprints and footprints and I love making commissioned pieces because I love a challenge! So, in my photo you have me in the foreground, and my inks, creations, flyer and my all important business card (!!!) in the background! I enjoy my work and it gives me such a sense of achievement and a real purpose in life.

My mission in life is to teach everyone to look at people’s abilities and what they can do and not focus on their disabilities and what they struggle with. We can all be achievers with a little help and support. I dreamed a dream and now it’s a reality – I am a successful businesswoman!

Each of my cards is unique and perfectly imperfect in every way. My prints may be smudged, my lines may not be straight, and my writing may be wonky but how boring would life be if everything was perfect! I also donate 10% of the sales of each of my cards to charity so I am helping others at the same time.

I want the whole world to know, that it is absolutely OK to be different as I have experienced for myself. Look for the perfectness in everything that appears.

Benjamin with a slinky toy
Fourth place - Benjamin Morrison, 11; ‘The Slinky-ing Reading Master‘s Joy: Living with severe ASD and now seizure-free’.

The Slinky-ing Reading Master’s Joy: Living with severe ASD and now seizure free – Benjamin

Benjy is a non-verbal severe autistic, who understands British Makaton. He was born with a one in a million condition of Hypothalamic Hemaetoma, which means a benign brain tumour is situated on his pituitary gland. This HH then got in the way of Benjy’s communication within his brain and turned into gelastic and dychrionic epilepsy and Benjy started having 7-20 seizures a day.

Great Ormond Street Hospital was able to cure his epilepsy, however just by removing the HH there was damage caused to Benjy’s pituitary gland. He now has Water Diabetes aka Diabetes Insipidus, which means he must take medication exactly three times a day to maintain his sodium and water levels. He must also take thyroid medication as well and has regular blood tests to monitor his puberty and cortisol stress hormones.

When the family were at GOSH, we had one evening where Benjy’s condition was critical. Mummy will be receiving NHS treatment to help her process the trauma she went through that night and has been diagnosed with PTSD relating to her role as a parent carer of a severely disabled special needs child with medically complex needs.

In this photo, Benjy Morrison adores playing with his large slinky – always has and in the Pandemic lockdowns, he wasn’t fully able to attend his specialist school due to prioritising NHS professionals’ children in school. Benjy started to widen his very isolated world with reading mostly car magazines and a smattering of others too.

Benjy has now been put on an anti-depressant to help aid the anxiety the Pandemic created. He already was suffering from his own medical trauma anxiety and is often very anxious for any medical visit like blood tests and routine appointments now. However, in this photo, he still finds pure joy in both playing with his slinky in a way no one else can while reading his magazines. His smile in this photo is one of pure joy and it is heart-warming that he can still find pure happiness by doing what he loves.

Benjy will always need a high level of personal care, but his brain operation has enabled him to live a life free of epilepsy, which was a dream his whole family had for four years.

His scar from the surgery can be seen over his left eye under his hair line and the horrible living room wall in the background illustrates also how normal DIY situations must also wait for families of disabled children. We bought this house over three years ago and hope to get it painted next month as at first, we were dealing with Benjy’s epilepsy, his brain operation, the sudden illness and loss of his paternal grandfather and COVID-19 – yet despite that background, Benjy is smiling and happy.