BIG hearts, talents, thinkers and strengths were celebrated at this year’s annual Exceptional People in Care Awards - EPIC.

A total of 218 young people were nominated for the EPIC Awards which celebrated the county’s children in care and care leavers.

Supported by West Sussex County Council, the event was organised with the help of the Children in Care Council and Care Leaver’s Forum.

The event was brought to life with a Disney theme as the young people aimed to make the event more of a celebration with exciting and entertaining elements alongside formal recognition.

One of the event presenters, Jack Salter, age 12, from the Children in Care Council, said: “I absolutely loved it and thought it was amazing.

“I feel it was important for young people to get their award and have fun but more importantly to be recognised for their actions and achievements.

“My role in the EPIC Awards was to go on stage with the presenters. I felt very nervous.

“When I was up on stage, one thing that reassured me was seeing my foster mum, who gave me a thumbs up.

“At that point, I thought ‘what’s the worst that could happen’ and I just went with it!”

More than 400 people attended the event which was held at Butlins, in Bognor Regis.

The top awards at this year’s ceremony were:

• Big Hearts - examples of making a positive contribution in the community

• Big Talents - for young people who have demonstrated talent and achievements

• Big Thinkers - those who have really tried or succeeded in academic achievement such as improved attendance

• Big Strength - for children in care who have been brave or overcome a challenge

• Inspirational Care Leaver

• Inspirational Young Person in Care 2017

• And, the Chris Lindfield award for Volunteering in the Community.

At the event, one of the children in care said: “This award nomination has made me feel good, that people believe in me, even though I don’t always believe in myself.”