Established in memory of the Princess of Wales, and supported by her two sons, the Duke of Cambridge, and the Duke of Sussex, the award is presented annually to outstanding nine to 25-year-olds who have selflessly created positive change in their communities.
Inspirational Ben receives his award after completing a 10-day charity trek from his hometown to the stadium of his favourite football team, Manchester United, raising over £28,000 for food poverty charity, FareShare.
His 64-mile effort garnered support from family, friends and famous faces across Northern Ireland and beyond, including Manchester United stalwarts Paul Scholes, Wayne Rooney, and Sir Alex Ferguson, and translated to over 115,000 meals for the UK hunger charity.
Ben’s unique ‘Miles for Meals’ campaign came hot on the heels of his previous fundraising efforts, through which he also raised over £7,000 for the Northern Ireland Children’s Hospice.
A proud Ben said: “I never could have imagined that the small ideas I came up with in my bedroom to keep me active and raise some money for two worthy charities could grow so big or have such a massive impact on the lives of people across the UK. I didn’t do it for reward, I just wanted to help young people less fortunate than myself in a fun way, so to win the Diana Award doing something I enjoy is just the icing on the cake.”
On his arrival at Old Trafford, the club gave Ben a hero’s welcome to celebrate his charitable achievements. Congratulating Ben on his award, John Shiels, chief executive of Manchester United Foundation, said:
“It was a pleasure to meet such an inspiring young boy and support him as he tackles the important issue of food poverty in the UK. Ben’s compassion for others shines through and it is clear to see that he truly cares about making a positive difference in the lives of those who need it most, so we are thrilled to see him win this award.”
Commending Ben’s generous fundraising efforts, Tessy Ojo CBE, CEO of The Diana Award, said: “The Diana Award was established with a core aim of recognising extraordinary young people who are selflessly leading positive social change, and Ben could not be more deserving of this accolade. His incredible act of generosity and selflessness will go a long way in helping many people across Northern Ireland and beyond, and will most certainly have a lasting impact.
“We would like to thank Ben for his huge contribution to society and extend a warm congratulations on winning the Diana Award - we can’t wait to see what he does next.”
Ben’s Miles for Meals campaign was supported by local businesses, his teammates at Greenisland FC, and championed by key figures including football pundit Gary Neville, Manchester United legends Bryan Robson and Norman Whiteside, and Larne FC owner and business supremo, Kenny Bruce, who on behalf of the Inver Park club subsequently nominated Ben for the Diana Award.
Kenny said:“Ben deserves this award and more for what he has achieved at such a young age, and you can bet there is more to come from him.”
For more information on the Diana Award, visit www.diana-award.org.uk