Pride of Britain winner Elizabeth meets F1 hero after being scarred for life as a baby
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Pride of Britain winner Elizabeth meets F1 hero after being scarred for life as a baby

May 10, 2023

Brave Elizabeth Soffe, eight, has had 80 operations since suffering ­third-degree burns over 60% of her body in the blaze at just six months old

A young fundraiser left ­horrifically scarred in a fire as a baby could not hide her joy at meeting F1 star Daniel Ricciardo.

Brave Elizabeth Soffe, eight, has had 80 operations since suffering ­third-degree burns over 60% of her body in the blaze at just six months old

But the youngster never complains and instead dedicates herself to helping others through her charity exploits, raising an incredible £202,000 for the hospital which treated her.

Elizabeth walked a marathon when she was seven, despite the agony of her scars. And the Formula 1 fan has now been rewarded for her incredible efforts with a Pride of Britain award.

She was left speechless when her racing hero Daniel, 33, broke the news while she was on a visit to the McLaren ­Technology Centre in Woking, Surrey, with mum Sinead.

He surprised Elizabeth when he appeared with a gold envelope and told her: "I’m Daniel, nice to meet you. I’ve heard about all the fundraising you’ve done."

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.

Elizabeth said later: "I didn't say a word I was so shocked.

"It feels like I was dreaming. It's the best day of my life."

Daniel added: "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.

"You could see the happiness on her face as she was receiving the award and being recognised for the work she does."

Child of Courage winner Elizabeth will collect her trophy at the Daily Mirror Pride of Britain awards, with TSB, this Monday in front of proud parents Sinead, 43, and Liam, 44, and siblings Danny, 14, Amelia, 13 and William, 10.

The star-studded awards, hosted by Carol Vorderman and Ashley Banjo at London's Grosvenor House, will be screened on ITV next Thursday.

Elizabeth and her family's lives changed in an instant when a faulty air conditioning unit caused her cot to catch on fire in May 2014 at their flat in Doha, Qatar.

Nurse Sinead said: "Before the accident, life was normal. She was a perfect baby and everything had just slotted into place for us.

"But in the blink of an eye it was thrown into the air. In the tiny space between putting her down to sleep then walking down the stairs everything was on fire and our life had completely changed."

No hospital in Qatar was able to treat burns as severe as Elizabeth's, so she was placed in an induced coma. Five days later, she was flown to the UK and admitted to Birmingham Children's Hospital which had a specialist unit.

Danny, Amelia and William went to live with their ­grandparents in Ireland while Sinead and Liam stayed by their daughter's side while she spent six months in intensive care.

Once it became apparent Elizabeth would need many more ­operations throughout her life, the family permanently relocated to Birmingham. As well as the burns she lost most of her fingers, part of her nose and one of her ears. The youngster visits hospital on average one day a week. But Sinead, who is friends with actress Ashley Russell, says her daughter takes everything in her stride, adding: "She never complains."

Last summer, Elizabeth decided to raise money towards a Fractional CO2 Laser machine for Birmingham ­Children's Hospital. The equipment softens tissue, improves movement and reduces tightness around severe scars.

She ran a marathon in 26 days, doing a mile every day in her local park, and during a period of two-week Covid isolation did 73 laps of her garden.

Sinead said: "Running a mile sounds easy, but doing it every day is hard. On top of that, it was really hot and people with scarring like Elizabeth overheat really quickly. You’d see her going from white to bright pink so that made it tougher. We’d cool her with the hose as she ran around.

"Elizabeth also has scarring over her joints which makes them stiff. So on top of being seven, having her scarring and the intense heat, she did an amazing job. She didn't moan at all.

"She now wants to run a marathon one day, that's the sort of kid she is."

Elizabeth raised a total of £215,000, smashing the initial target of £1,000. As well as funding the laser, money has gone towards charities that have helped her including last year's Mirror Christmas charity Make-A-Wish.

And with her family, she is currently attempting to walk a combined half a million steps to raise funds for a virtual reality headset for the hospital that can be used as distraction therapy for children getting treatment. For Sinead, one of the most important aspects of Elizabeth winning her award is raising awareness of burns injuries.

She said: "If you look back over my old social media, I’d never show photos of Elizabeth because I’d be scared of people making ­negative comments.

"I’ve had them over the years. I’ve gone from wanting to hide her and protect her to thinking, ‘Why shouldn't the world see her?’ She's different from other kids because I don't know many children her age who have done what Elizabeth has done.

"It's not about her looking different, it's about the fact her attitude to life is different. And that's the beauty of this award, that people are seeing that she's not just a little girl who is scarred, she's something way bigger than that.

"We are so proud of Elizabeth. We think she's amazing, but it's the icing on the cake that other people have recognised her for being as fabulous as we think she is.

"It's going to be hugely emotional seeing her collect her award. She's an inspiration to me every day."

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