When Sir Terry Wogan was unable to present the BBC Children in Need show in November I told him that I knew our fundraisers and supporters would do him proud.
That is a special reason why I am delighted to be announcing our record breaking total of £55million, which is £6million higher than last year!
This has only happened due to the dedication and energy of all of those who fundraise and support us every year to help transform the lives of disadvantaged children and young people right across the UK.
This moment belongs to you, our committed supporters, who took to your schools and places of work dressed up as your childhood heroes, baked batches of cakes and cookies to sell, hosted a quiz night, rambled for miles or simply donated. Each and every one of you has helped ensure that children in the UK will have a better chance of a safe, happy, secure childhood and of reaching their potential.
This moment also belongs to those children and young people who will benefit from funding in communities across the UK. Today BBC Children in Need is funding nearly 2,400 projects in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The money you have raised will ensure that we can continue to invest in local organisations working to make a real difference for children living tough lives.
Children like 19-year-old Katie from Scotland. Nearly ten years ago, her mum was diagnosed with Huntington's disease, a hereditary condition that damages nerve cells in the brain, affecting movement, cognition and behaviour. Symptoms get progressively worse over time and in Katie's mum the disease advanced quickly, which left Katie caring for her from the young age of 10.
The pressures of her responsibilities at home combined with her constant worry over her mum's health took its toll on Katie, and she became anxious, rarely leaving the house and eventually quitting college. The experience left her feeling isolated and alone, until she began receiving help from the Scottish Huntington's Association. At the charity, Katie attended the youth project where she met other children and young people whose families have been affected by Huntington's disease.
BBC Children in Need awarded the group a three-year grant of £123,000, to fund a youth advisor who could deliver one to one advice and coordinate group sessions that target the many areas where children need support, including, family relationships, school, emotional wellbeing and advocacy. The Scottish Huntington's Association gave Katie a personalised packaged of support with strong networks in place to boost her resilience, self-confidence and ease her worries. It also gave her opportunities for respite at the annual summer camp where she could just enjoy care-free days with friends. With continued funding, young people like Katie going through one of the toughest times in their lives, facing a multitude of uncertainties whilst sustaining vast responsibilities, can receive crucial help to carry on.
Your money has also helped children like 10-year-old Theo from Leeds, who at 13 months was struck by an unidentified virus that led to acute liver failure. His condition was so severe that he was put on life support whilst he waited on the urgent list for a liver transplant, and this wouldn't be the last time. Theo would undergo two more liver transplants, suffer a ruptured bowel, and endure multiple infections and medical interventions, all of which significantly impacted his development, particularly his speech, language and cognitive abilities. This means that he is sometimes unable to keep up with his peers at school. In recent years Theo has also been diagnosed with a very rare form of epilepsy, which is likely to be a result of his acute liver failure.
Although he is now physically healthy, like many children and young people who undergo a liver transplant, Theo may require monitoring and daily medication for the rest of his life to prevent him rejecting his new liver. Theo's family describes him as a vibrant and happy young boy who enjoys riding, cycling and swimming. He just loves being physically active, and at Transplant Sport UK, he can do just that.
Transplant Sport UK has received more than £100,000 in BBC Children in Need funding. Its latest three year grant, funds a part-time kids and teens coordinator who works to ensure that young transplant recipients like Theo can take part in rehabilitative competitive sports and other outdoor activities, including, the British Transplant Games and the Transplant Sport Family Weekend. Not only can Theo join in on the races, he can also meet other children who have experienced transplantation and make new friends. Best of all the activities delivered by the coordinator are child-led, which means that children are encouraged to contribute their ideas and take an active part in managing their health and general well-being.
Thanks to you, we have helped hundreds of thousands of children and young people just like Katie and Theo. In 2015, we supported projects that lent a sympathetic ear to youngsters struggling to cope with mental health issues, provided opportunities for fun and friendships for those who are isolated, funded bereavement counselling to comfort children who have experienced loss, helped children living in areas affected by poverty and deprivation, enabled training for young people with additional needs to access public transport, and so much more.
Your generosity has helped make the lives of children in all corners of the UK better, bringing hope and possibility at difficult times. As we celebrate this announcement, we want to say thank you and hope you are proud of what you have made possible.