Terri's big day out in London

PUBLISHED: 12:30 13 December 2001 | UPDATED: 11:01 03 March 2010

Nobody can deny the enduring courage of Ipswich girl Terri Calvesbert, and now that heroism has been honoured by a national award. We joined Terri and her family at a star-studded Children of Courage awards ceremony in Westminster Abbey.

THEIR hearts bursting with pride, Terri Calvesbert's family watched her step onto the stage and be embraced by the prime minister's wife Cherie Booth QC.

Under the towering arches and glowing chandeliers of Westminster Abbey, Terri was delighted to savour the moment as the final one of ten Woman's Own Children of Courage award winners.

True to form, she took the awe-inspiring surroundings and star-studded ceremony in her stride. Other children had been accompanied by their parents, but not Ipswich's very own little heroine.

Wearing her new blonde wig, Terri walked fearlessly up to one of the world's most important women to receive a shining medal and scroll tied with a scarlet ribbon.

The famous eyes of stars from the stage and screen turned to watch, and some couldn't conceal the emotion that surged when they saw the scars left by Terri's 85 per cent burns, suffered in a house fire three years ago.

Clutching her scroll - which she quickly dubbed 'my roll' and used to pat people on the head - Terri paused for a moment of hesitation when faced with the challenge of climbing down the steps from the stage.

She was lifted down instead by Ms Booth, and ran back to the waiting arms of devoted dad Paul, and proud grandparents Michael and Margaret Calvesbert and Dave and Sue Minter in the audience.

The moving service by the Dean of Westminster The Very Reverend Dr Wesley Carr, was the highlight of a two-day stay in the capital for the family.

It featured festive carols from the Abbey's red-robed choir, and a special message to the winning children was sent via video-link by former Superman actor Christopher Reeve, no stranger to courage in adversity himself since he was paralysed in a riding accident.

He said: "I can't walk or come to London, I can't feed myself or dress myself.

"I know there are days when you have had enough, days when you just don't want to go on, but you do because you have courage, and a wish to succeed against all the odds. Courage comes in many different forms but you are all Children of Courage. I really wish I could be among you today."

Young Terri's courage is an enduring bravery. Unlike some others who are honoured for bravery, she has not done any one particular act to be proud of, but her determination is ever present as she takes on the new challenges each day brings.

Throughout the past three years of disfigurement and pain, she has consistently held her head high and never shied from the stares she encounters in the street, at school, at the shops.

Out of tragedy, a spirit saturated with courage was born, and continues to grow as she gets older.

This was paid tribute to, by a citation read by film legend Anthony Andrews who said: "For Paul, the first sight of his daughter's terrible burns will haunt him for ever.

"The doctors didn't pull any punches and told him not to get his hopes up as she might not make it through the night. But even at the tender age of two, Terri was never going to give up.

"She has now undergone more than 30 operations to reconstruct her body.

"Paul was really worried when she started school. He said: 'You know how cruel children can be, but I should have known her personality would carry her through. When she saw them looking, she said to them 'I look like this because I got out in the oven instead of the chicken!'

"This little girl can and will overcome literally anything."

Then came a photo shoot, and Terri shielded her eyes from the glare of dozens of flashguns, only peering out from behind her arm occasionally.

She cuddled up to Neil Buchanan, presenter of children's TV art show Art Attack, and told him "silly old boy" when another winner sat in the wrong place and had to move.

Former spice girl, singer Victoria Beckham sat next to Terri for a moment.

Neil Buchanan said: "I think I've made a new friend. We seem to be getting on very well - she's adopted me and I've become her nanny!"

Another new friend was TV presenter Gaby Roslin, who had spent some time sitting on the floor with Terri, drawing pictures, before the photo shoot.

The City Hospital presenter has met many ill and injured children, and said: "We were drawing and Terri was absolutely loving it, but I think Neil's overtaken me in her affections - because he drew her a Father Christmas!"

She added: "She's a great kid. I was actually saying to my friend last night that I was worried because I had to get my hair done, and then I met Terri and it makes everything else so trivial.

"She is so brave. Meeting her really puts things into perspective."

Terri sang Jingle Bells to her nurse and Gaby, but refused to let them join in the chorus.

Coronation Street star Helen Worth, who plays long-running character Gail Platt, said: "I think Terri's had a long day because she was up at 5am.

"She's just gorgeous."

*The Evening Star's Terri Calvesbert Appeal for her future needs, has now topped £95,000 and donations can be sent to Geraldine Thompson, Editor's Secretary, The Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN.

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