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Prince pays tribute to Debbie

PUBLISHED: 15:31 01 May 2003 | UPDATED: 13:48 03 March 2010

EVENING Star features editor Debbie Watson was among reporters praised today by Prince Charles. Presenting the Prince's Trust Local Reporting Award at St James's Palace reception, the prince congratulated the Star and other regional newspapers for covering the "really special" things that are happening as well as the "disaster and pain".

EVENING Star features editor Debbie Watson was among reporters praised today by Prince Charles. Presenting the Prince's Trust Local Reporting Award at St James's Palace reception, the prince congratulated the Star and other regional newspapers for covering the "really special" things that are happening as well as the "disaster and pain".

"It is wonderful to be reminded of the many things that people are doing and by so many unsung heroes and heroines," he said.

Debbie, 25, was one of two runners-up for the award, which recognises reporters aged from 14 to 30 who write inspiring stories about disadvantaged young people.

The prince added that the award, which is run in conjunction with the Newspaper Society, helps remind us of how many "marvellous young people there are out there... so many young people who do not get the recognition they deserve".

Andrew Hebden, 23, a trainee reporter with the Bradford Telegraph & Argus, won the award a feature on teenagers who are campaigning for better facilities.

The Prince of Wales also spoke of his personal pride that the trust has helped 500,000 people since it was set up in 1976.

"Just helping one person makes it worthwhile, never mind 500,000," he said, adding that it was an "investment in the future" that he hoped would continue to thrive.

He said: "I hope this award scheme does give encouragement to the young enthusiastic reporters who have been recognised today in their careers.

"I hope it encourages them to go on to make something really special of their chosen paths and lives.

"The trust that I started nearly 28 years ago now has helped about 500,000 young people since 1976. I am amazed at the letters that I receive from all sorts of people who have been helped by the trust – it is a marvellous reward to hear their particular stories. It makes a difference to their lives and raises their self-confidence.

"Some people do not have the opportunity to put into practice their underlying talent."

Debbie's winning story focused on 12-year-old Jacob Swift, who has the demanding job of caring for his mother Helen, who suffers from Crohn's disease - a severe intestinal condition.

Debbie said: "It was a nice story to write because Helen and Jacob have this incredible relationship that is quite special. Jacob's loyalty to his mum and his concern for her was something that you can get really involved in."

Ms Swift said that if it was not for Jacob she might have to be in a care situation and her children might have been placed in foster care.

After the prince had described Jacob as an unsung hero, his mother said: "To say that I am proud doesn't cover how I feel.

"I'm so thrilled that Jacob has been able to have such a nice experience because he has had so many bad ones and it is lovely that he has received such a nice tribute.'"

Jacob, now 13, was taking everything in his stride.

He said: "Sometimes when I see what people have written about me I think it's not such a big deal because it's something I have got to do, but other times I'm really happy that it has been noticed that I am helping."

Tim Bowdler, president of the Newspaper Society, said: "In recognising young people and the inspiring work many of them do for their communities, these awards are representative of the work that newspapers do on a local level, every day and every week of the year."

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