Co Derry teenager makes difference after friend’s tragic death from brain tumour

Carla McErlean from Kilrea
Carla McErlean from Kilrea

For the exemplary work she carried out in her local community, Carla McErlean from Kilrea has been selected from among hundreds of youth volunteers as an All Ireland Youth Volunteer of the Year in the 2016 Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards .

At last week’s gala awards’ ceremony, held in Donegal, Carla received €1,000 for a charity of her choice, a gold medallion and crystal trophy for her school, presented by multi-platinum selling songwriter and music producer Niall Breslin (Bressie).

In May, Carla will travel on an all-expenses paid trip to Washington D.C. to meet up with youth volunteers from across America and participate in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards ceremony.

Carla is a sixth form student at Loreto College, Coleraine.

Since the loss of her best friend in September 2014 to a brain tumour, Carla has been motivated to do something out of the ordinary to make her friend proud by raising funds for cancer charities.

Carla organised various events with her closest friends in memory of her friend Anna, raising over £11,000 for Cancer Fund for Children.

She also coordinated ‘The Goosebury Festival,’ a special event held at Anna’s house which raised over £20,000 for Cancer Fund for Children and the Cancer Unit in Belfast.

The only all-Ireland youth initiative of its kind, the Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards programme recognises young people for their motivation, service and impact on their local communities across the island of Ireland.

“Congratulations to all of the 20 finalists who are inspiring individuals. It really is testament to their character to be nominated in the 2016 Pramerica Spirit of Community Awards and I am honoured to be able to acknowledge the dedication and commitment they have shown in giving back to their communities,” said Bressie in his keynote address.

“Carla and Cían are extraordinary youth ambassadors who are actively making a difference in their communities, and it has been a pleasure to celebrate their accomplishments.”

The programme is run in partnership with The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD), The General Teaching Council for Northern Ireland (GTCNI), with support from Scouting Ireland and Foróige.

“In this special 10th anniversary year, we’re honoured to showcase young people’s commitment to volunteerism and tonight’s 20 finalists are no exception,” said Caroline Faulkner, senior managing director, Pramerica Systems Ireland. Their stories are truly remarkable, especially those of Carla and Cían who have proved to be wonderful role models and are inspiring individuals.”