Place2Be are a charity who are very close to my heart. They are the leading children's mental health charity providing in-school support to improve the emotional wellbeing of pupils, families and school staff. I initially worked with them to deliver their inaugural Wellbeing in Schools Awards at Kensington Palace in 2014 and so was delighted to be asked back to deliver their second Awards event in November 2016. These Awards celebrate the amazing contribution made by schools around the country. There are nine award categories, ranging from School Community, through to School Hero, Head Teacher and of course celebrating the work of the children and young people who work to champion positive mental health and wellbeing. I was honoured to observe the judging process two months before the event, which told such powerful stories of the inspirational finalists, and meant I could really understand the importance of this occasion to them. This years event was hosted in Mansion House, a venue befitting such a special celebration, which also meant we could increase the guest list to 350 people. Despite double the capacity, the guest list continued to be a difficult one to refine as the charity is fortunate to have so many wonderful supporters whom they wanted to invite. We also had the challenge of managing two reception areas before the main awards ceremony, one for the finalists, where they have the unique opportunity to meet the charity's Royal Patron, HRH The Duchess of Cambridge, and the second, main reception for around 270 people. The run up to the big day had involved numerous briefings for the finalists, the sponsors and speakers to ensure that they were clear on Royal protocol, and the finer logistics of the presentation of the awards themselves. Following the reception, the guests filed into the majestic Egyptian Hall at Mansion House, where proceedings were started by the hoast, Sir Martyn Lewis CBE. The Lord Mayor of London then did a short welcome and made the poignant connection between mental health and wellbeing and the power of music, before introducing the school choir from Oakington Manor. This group of 30 children, aged between 8 and 11 years old really set the scene with their rendition of 'Something Inside So Strong' and 'Lean on Me'. A few tears in the house already, including from me! We were then delighted to hear HRH The Duchess of Cambridge speak passionately about her belief in the importance of positive mental health and wellbeing in young people. Following speeches from the President, Dame Benita Refson DBE, and headline sponsor, Garfield Weston, we were into the awards themselves. Martyn Lewis kept things moving along combining his ever professional style with an empathetic delivery of the finalists stories. Every winner chose to say a few words, and you could feel how much it meant to them. The evening culminated with the Child and Young Person Champion Awards, presented by HRH The Duchess of Cambridge. This was truly a magical moment that you can tell will live in the hearts and minds of the finalists for a very long time. Congratulations to all of you for your courage and determination, you are an inspiration.
Denise Yeats is an events director, communications consultant, endurance athlete and avid adventurer.