Dante Valaydon-Pillay has won The Sir Terry Wogan Young Fundraiser of the Year Award from BBC Children in Need. This marks the first ever award that has gone to a young person.
In an incredible feat, Dante, who lives in Raglan, raised £1,500 by climbing the iconic Sugar Loaf Mountain every day for five days. He trekked through sun, wind, fog, rain and heat, taking nearly 40,000 steps and completed 17 miles during his charity hike. From this, he was then shortlisted from thousands by Children in Need.
What truly spearheaded Dante’s desire to take on this challenge was the circumstances following a difficult time in his family life. His mother suffered a series of devastating strokes in 2017, which led to her being hospitalised for three months and to futher add to this - his grandmother tragically passed away from cancer during the same period.
Throughout all this, Dante was surrounded by his family and friends, who became his support system.
More recently, he has seen his friends’ mother foster children who are going through hard family times, which made him realise that not all children were as fortunate to have the same committed family unit he had. Reflecting on when his mother was ill in hospital, he felt a drive to raise money for less fortunate children and the charity Children in Need.
When talking about how this particular challenge came to mind, Dante said, “A challenge is not a challenge if it is easy, so I decided to think of something just a little more difficult… I can see the Sugar Loaf from my bedroom window and thought.... I’m going to climb that.”
His initiative was made all the more evident when he contacted former Rugby Union player Ed Jackson.
First given the idea in lockdown when Dante’s class were asked to write an imaginary letter to Ed. He was aware that Ed had been severely injured a terrible diving accident which, in many ways reflected his mothers own disabilities and so decided to actually contact him to ask whether he would like to accompany him on his charity hike... He was delighted when Ed said “Yes, I’d love to.”
Several people nominated Dante for The Sir Terry Wogan Young Fundraiser Award after they were impressed by the creativity of his challenge and finding out about his own personal challenges over the years. From his nominations, Children in Need shortlisted him, astounded his achievement. Eventually he went from a shortlist of six down to the last three. After making the final shortlist, he was interviewed by Michael Ball on his Sunday Children in Need Special where he chatted to all of the shortlisted nominees, as well as BBC Radio Wales.
This culminated with an appearance live in the Blue Peter studio in Salford, Manchester on 18th November where they revealed the winner of The Sir Terry Wogan Young Fundraiser of 2022.
Dante was named the winner and emerged through the famous Blue Peter doors to a fanfare of cheers and clapping by the audience. On stage he met Joel and Richie, two of the Blue Pete hosts as well as Jo Wicks, also known as the Body Coach. He presented Dante with a silver Pudsey trophy before asking him about his charity challenge.
As an extra surprise he was then given a rare silver Blue Peter badge and two tickets to ‘Go Ape’ a treetop adventure park.
Later that evening Dante was was whisked off to the glittering, showbiz filming of Children in Need, also in Salford, Manchester.
He was given the VIP treatment, sitting in the front row of the audience and watching live performances by Lewis Capaldi, Diversity and the Children In Need Appeal Choir.
The morning after was a whirlwind of interviews including one with Micheal Ball live on his Sunday morning show. Michael chatted to Dante about receiving his trophy and the events leading up to it. Afterwards, a producer showed him around the Radio 2 & 6 studios... he even got to read the news! Being a budding pianist he could not resist playing a few piano pieces on Elton Johns piano in the main studio - his skill praised by Michael Ball.
Dante said, “I have had an amazing time. I never thought that I would ever win an award, I only wanted to raise money for Children in Need. The other nominees were brilliant and I never dreamed that I would win! I want to thank everyone who donated and nominated me. It was very kind of them. I remember my Grandma saying, ‘In a world where you can choose to be anything... choose to be kind”. If we are all just a bit kinder maybe the world will be a better place’”.