Mum and dad mark Survival Day, nine years since baby Elizabeth survived
It has become an annual tradition for Sinead and Liam, and for Pride of Britain hero Elizabeth
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Last week, Elizabeth Soffe celebrated her Survival Day. It's a family tradition now, marking the day nine years ago when, as a six-month-old baby, she survived a devastating fire in her cot that left her with burns all over her body. She and parents Sinead and Liam commemorated the occasion with afternoon tea. "We have a celebration for it every year, because that's the day that she survived," says dad Liam. This year for a present, Elizabeth wants him to make a cabinet for her special Pride of Britain Child of Courage award, which he's been promising to do since she won it last October. "There is meant to be a special cabinet, and Daddy said he's going to build it," she says. "That still hasn't happened yet!" Brave Elizabeth was nominated for the award after raising £202,000 for Birmingham Children's Hospital, where staff battled to save her life after the fire left her with third-degree burns over 60 percent of her little body, reports The Mirror. The family were living in Qatar at the time and the fire started in a faulty air conditioner, and baby Elizabeth had to be flown back to the UK in a race against time to get lifesaving specialist treatment. Her terrified parents were warned she might not survive, but after spending weeks in a coma and six months in intensive care, Elizabeth was strong enough to start the more than 70 operations she's had since to repair her damaged body. To thank the hospital that saved her, Elizabeth pledged to run a mile a day for 26 days to raise money for the specialist burns unit. She completed her marathon, even running laps around her garden during lockdown. As co-host Carol Vorderman first met Elizabeth the night before last year's Daily Mirror Pride of Britain Awards, with TSB, at the annual get together she dubs the ‘winners dinner’.
"To be honest, that's my favourite night," says the TV star. "You’re not ‘on show’ so you have time for proper chats with everyone. Everybody's there but they don't know each other's stories of course, so it's very special for them to hear why everyone else is there." To celebrate nominations for this year's Pride of Britain awards opening today, Carol, 62, and Elizabeth were reunited seven months on from her win. "Elizabeth is wondrously special," says Carol. "Like all of our winners, nobody ever thinks they are special. And because of the kind of people our winners are, they’re appreciative of all of the other winners and what they’ve done. There's something remarkable that runs through the DNA of all of our winners, and that's why that night is particularly special for us." The winners dinner was also where Elizabeth made firm friends last year. She's still in touch with Michelle Dornelly, winner of the TSB Community Hero award, and has visited her food bank in Hackney, east London, with her mum and dad. The family has also stayed in contact with 3 Dads Walking - Andy Airey, Mike Palmer and Tim Owen - winners of the Special Recognition gong after fundraising more than £880,000 for suicide awareness charity Papyrus. "The night itself goes by so quickly," recalls Liam. "But around the dinner table it's much more relaxed, and you hear people's stories. You get to know them a bit and their families and everything, so it made us feel a lot closer to them. "They really are inspirational people. Most of them, like Elizabeth has, have made some really positive things out of some terrible situations. That's what I kind of took from it. But all these people who’ve been through some terrible things then turn it into something positive and inspirational, so it's fantastic," he says. While her friends at school now think she's famous because they’ve seen her on TV, Elizabeth is just like any other nine-year-old girl. She loves The Little Mermaid and is excited about her trip to the British Grand Prix, where she's set to be a guest of McLaren It was on a visit to the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, Surrey, with mum Sinead, that her racing hero Daniel Ricciardo broke the news of her award last year. The pair then had a go in Daniel's test racing simulator, with the Australian star doing the acceleration as Elizabeth steered herself around a virtual lap of the Silverstone circuit. Daniel said: "To have such drive and determination at that age is really impressive. It was a privilege to meet her. It feels like there's not even words that will do enough justice to describe what she's done." F1 fan Elizabeth can't wait to visit Silverstone with McLaren next month. "She still hopes that they’ll decide when they see her that she’ll be their reserve driver," laughs her dad. "First driver!" Elizabeth cuts in cheekily. She's hoping to sneak down to the Red Bull area to spot Daniel again. "I want to see them all!" she grins. As well as her car-racing aspirations, Elizabeth would love to appear on Dancing on Ice when she's old enough, after her first trip to an ice rink. "When I went for the first time, I fell down a couple times," she admits. "But then I kept getting up and people were telling me I look like a professional skater. That was only after 10 minutes on the ice, on my first time!" She's got quite the daredevil streak in her, asking Carol - who has held her pilot's licence for 10 years - if she can do loop-the-loops in her plane, and angling for a spot in the passenger seat. "Can we go as fast as it can go?" she asks, hopefully. "Why can't you just do ballet dancing or something?" grumbles her dad. And Elizabeth hasn't stopped raising money for the hospital. Even as the weather heats up, she's been out running and rollerskating to encourage more donations to the burns unit. Her original pledge was to raise enough for a fractional CO2 laser machine that younger patients could use: the laser breaks down scar tissue and helps make scarring less visible. It can also help patients whose scarring makes it harder for them to bend joints because of the inflammation. Since her fundraising started, Elizabeth has raised enough money to pay for two state-of-the-art machines. The 2023 Pride of Britain Award nominations open today, and Carol urges Mirror readers to start thinking about the brilliant people in your life. "Do it," she says. "Because somebody has to nominate those wonderful people, and if you’re not going to do it, who is?" Elizabeth agrees. "It's an amazing experience to win," she says, "not only for the winner but for their whole family."
YOU can nominate anyone of any age for a Pride of Britain Award. It may be for a single act of incredible courage, a long-lasting battle against the odds, or for inspirational campaigning. Please choose what you feel to be the most suitable category from the list. Don't worry if you’re not sure – some nominees may fit in more than one category, so the Pride of Britain team will make sure they are considered for the most appropriate award. Winners will be chosen by the Pride of Britain judging panel, from a shortlist produced by the Pride of Britain research team, who will consider every public nomination received. Nominate now at prideofbritain.com/nominate Here are the categories: TSB COMMUNITY HERO AWARD For someone who goes to remarkable lengths to help those around them to lead their best life. ITV FUNDRAISER OF THE YEAR For tireless and inspirational charity fundraising, aged 18 and over. GOOD MORNING BRITAIN YOUNG FUNDRAISER OF THE YEAR To reward a young person aged 17 or under for inspirational charity work. THIS MORNING EMERGENCY SERVICES AWARD For police, paramedics, ambulance, fire or air, sea or mountain rescue who have gone beyond the call of duty. OUTSTANDING BRAVERY For adults who risk their own safety to help others in danger. CHILD/TEENAGER OF COURAGE For battling against the odds to help others, or putting themselves at risk to save someone who is in danger. LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT To recognise far-reaching achievement, possibly on a national or international scale. SPECIAL RECOGNITION For achievements not covered in other categories, such as inspiring carers, campaigners and those in the armed forces.