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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Natasha Wynarczyk

King's tribute to 'inspirational' Prince’s Trust winner at Pride of Britain Awards

For 46 years, the King has been changing the lives of disadvantaged young people through his charity The Prince’s Trust.

It has helped more than a million people, which is a wonderful achievement, but at the Mirror’s Pride of Britain Awards, with TSB, it was his turn to pay homage.

In particular, the King wanted to hail Alex Anderson, a winner who has reached for the sky.

Alex, 22, won this year’s Prince’s Trust Young Achiever award after becoming one of the first people with Asperger’s syndrome to join the Royal Air Force. He has also done 1,000 hours of volunteering work.

After being presented with his award by Hollywood star Idris Elba, who himself was helped by The Prince’s Trust, there was a second shock for Alex when a letter from the King was read out by the actor.

The monarch said of Alex: “His is an inspirational story of triumph over adversity that shows how tenacity, courage and hard work can make even the most impossible dream come true. That he has done so in the face of so many obstacles is all the more commendable.

“I am enormously proud of the part The Prince’s Trust has played in helping him achieve his ambition to serve our nation.”

The King added: “The volunteer spirit he so wonderfully exemplifies is one that I know many others in this room this evening share... You are truly the Pride of Britain.”

Alex said later: “It was a surreal experience, that it’s the King talking about you and your achievements. I was blown away, and feel very humble as I met so many amazing people at the awards.”

Alex, of Newport, spoke on stage about his difficult childhood with undiagnosed Asperger’s and, as he fought back tears, dedicated the award to his late grandad.

Alex Anderson wins the Prince's Trust Young Achiever Award presented by Idris Elba (Daily Mirror)

Idris, who has starred in TV shows such as Luther and films including The Suicide Squad, said: “When I was 19 I applied to drama school and I couldn’t get in, and I applied to The Prince’s Trust for a grant that got me into a theatre school, and that helped kickstart my career.

“And it was a most incredible moment. They really did help me.”

After giving Alex a hug for his hard work, Londoner Idris, 50, said: “I was really touched by the film showing the work Alex does. I want to be Alex, I just want to be him. He has gone through such adversity to be here.”

As a lad Alex was labelled naughty and had to move school four times.

He was told he would end up in a young offender institution.

His life changed for the better after getting a diagnosis of Asperger’s aged nine and being taught coping mechanisms.

Having been knocked back from the RAF in 2017 due to his condition, Alex took an employability course with The Prince’s Trust. It helped him rebuild his confidence so he could reapply for the military.

Now, he is a logistic supplier for the RAF, saying: “I’ve had so many knock-backs but The Prince’s Trust... helped me turn my life around.”

He put some probing questions to Idris backstage. Alex said: “I did ask him ‘Are you going to play 007?’. He neglected to answer that one.”

Charles pictured at the 2016 Pride of Britain awards (Daily Mirror)

Alex and mum Karen spent the afterparty mingling with celebs including ITV presenters Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield, actor Michael Sheen and former Bake Off judge Mary Berry.

Speaking of his award, Alex said: “I wanted to bring a little ray of sunshine. I always said that if I can change one life, then it is worth it.” His mum, 52, a support worker, said: “I can’t believe I’m here with Alex. Not that long ago [he] was written off by four schools... He cried all the way through the ceremony as we listened to all the incredible stories.”

One of those stories was about Child of Courage winner Elizabeth Soffe, eight. She was given her award by the stars of her favourite TV show Strictly Come Dancing.

She also met the likes of singer Peter Andre and his son Junior.

Elizabeth, badly burned in a cot fire at six months, has raised almost £200,000 for charity despite needing operations every six months.

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