Made up of five inspirational young people who have benefitted from BBC Children in Need funding, the Surprise Squad members are lending a hand as part of a series of challenges to give back to others being supported by BBC Children in Need.
Joined by The One Show presenters Alex Jones, Ronan Keating and Jermaine Jenas, the Surprise Squad will head to three locations around the country where they will complete surprise challenges for BBC Children in Need funded projects. Whether that’s creating a sensory area for children living with disabilities or building a brand new space for a bereavement project, the Squad will deliver their surprises and complete them within just two days.
The One Show viewers will be able to watch how the surprises unfold each evening, whilst learning the young people’s inspiring stories in the run up to the BBC Children in Need Appeal Show.
The One Show’s Alex Jones, who will be joining the team during one of the surprises, says: “We’re thrilled to bits that the Surprise Squad is back again for BBC Children in Need with a new troupe of incredible young people delivering very special challenges for BBC Children in Need funded projects across the country. I just know the audience is going to be humbled and inspired by the Squad’s incredible stories and I can’t wait to share what they are getting up to!”
Ronan Keating, who will also be joining the team for one of the surprises, says: “Once again we’re so pleased to be delivering these surprises for BBC Children in Need projects across the country and what better way than to do it than with the help of a very special squad of youngsters who have benefitted from BBC Children in Need themselves. We hope that these surprises will make a huge difference to those receiving them and we can’t wait to bring the audience along with us!”
Jermaine Jenas adds: “Times are incredibly tough for so many right now and we know that there are so many people in need of support. We’re all really looking forward to seeing the amazing things that the new Surprise Squad get up to this year which we know will make a real difference and I hope that our audience love watching it all too!”
The Surprise Squad is made up of the following young people:
Max, 17 from Cornwall was just three when his mum died in 2009 of an undiagnosed heart condition. Max was with his mum when this happened. The following years for Max and his family were unimaginably tough. Max’s father was unable to work due to Max and his little brother Jasper needing his care. That’s when they were introduced to Penhaligon’s Friends who have been with them throughout their journey.
Penhaligon’s Friends is funded by BBC Children in Need and use a three-year grant of £98,575 to provide support workers and support sessions for families just like Max’s. The family have formed a very tight bond with Penhaligon’s, with Max regularly spending time at the project alongside other children there who have experienced similar challenges. He says that he feels grief never grows smaller but you can grow bigger and learn to live alongside it. Max has won a Diana award for his work with the charity and is keen to break down the taboos of discussing grief in everyday life.
Charlina, 20 from Luton has faced many health challenges in her life. As a baby she had successful heart surgery when holes were discovered in her heart. Then, as she got older doctors discovered she had a rare liver condition called focal nodular hypoplasia. The condition made Charlina extremely unwell and doctors decided that a liver transplant was the best way forward. Aged 12, Charlina underwent major surgery for a transplant; fortunately the operation was a success and Charlina gradually got better. Today Charlina is passionate about becoming a paediatric nurse after being inspired by the incredible nurses who helped her throughout her childhood.
Over the years Charlina has grown in self-confidence and self-belief, this is partly thanks to the work of the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation (CLDF) which is part funded by Children in Need. CLDF have been funded by BBC Children in Need since 2011, and their current grant enables them to provide one to one and online support for nearly 1,500 11-18 year-olds living with liver disease.
Jodie, 19 from Belfast was born at 30 weeks weighing just 3lbs 2oz. Fifteen months later she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, and in addition to this doctors later found she had scoliosis and serious issues with her sight. As a young child Jodie found her education tough as she felt very isolated and struggled with her self-esteem. Through a recommendation in her local community she started attending Monkstown Boxing, a local BBC Children in Need funded community project, which delivers youth group sessions which work to improve the mental health and wellbeing of young people.
Monkstown Boxing have made a hugely positive impact on Jodie’s life by supporting her with her anxiety and depression. Through attending the project, Jodie has gained confidence in spades and has become an inspiring speaker a for other disabled youngsters facing similar challenges. She’s now thriving at school and wants to become a youth worker.
Zuhair, 17, from Perth, is a young carer for his much loved two younger siblings Mo and Elaine who were both diagnosed with a form of ataxia six years ago, a progressive degenerative disease that affects balance, control and eye movement. Caring for Mo and Elaine involves the whole family and this became especially hard following a car accident which left Zuhair’s mother temporarily unable to walk.
Zuhair started to care more for his siblings to enable his father to keep working. Like so many young carers, this has at times left Zuhair feeling isolated and struggling with his mental health. Zuhair has been supported by PKAVS, which are funded by BBC Children in Need to deliver support to young carers. The support worker at PKAVS acts as a lifeline for Zuhair and his other sister Layan, also a young carer for the family. Attending PKAVS has enabled Zuhair to meet other young carers like him, providing him with the opportunity to feel more connected to peers going through similar challenges.
Lauren, 19, is from Nottingham. In February 2018 Lauren’s mum Lisa was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer and tragically she passed away later that year. Lauren was introduced to Maggie’s, who receive funding from BBC Children in Need to deliver their support days to young people who have a relative affected by cancer. Maggie’s has been funded by BBC Children in Need for the more than 10 years, it is a warm and welcoming place and it was somewhere where Lauren spent a lot of time following the loss of her mum.
Two years later, Lauren unexpectedly passed out at home and was later diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in February 2021. This was a hugely tumultuous time for Lauren and her father, who were still struggling with the loss of her mother. Lauren had chemotherapy but this wasn’t as effective as had been hoped and Lauren also needed a stem cell transplant. For much needed care, Lauren and her father once again returned to Maggie’s who supported them both on Lauren’s journey to recovery. Lauren is now almost five months in remission and has started working at a local nursery.
Rob Unsworth, Head of The One Show, says: “We’re delighted that the Surprise Squad is back this year with a new group of inspirational youngsters spreading a bit of magic to BBC Children in Need funded projects across the UK.”
Tommy Nagra, Director of Content at BBC Children in Need, says: “The Surprise Squad we have assembled with The One Show is made up of five incredible young people, each with their own emotional story to tell. Despite overcoming their own personal challenges, it’s uplifting to see them surprising and delighting others also in need. Whilst we recognise that times are tough, we hope viewers at home are inspired by the Surprise Squad’s remarkable efforts and enjoy tuning in to watch their journey.”
Watch The One Show between 31 October – 17 November every evening at 7pm on BBC One to see the squad stories and find out how the surprises unfold.
To donate please visit www.bbc.co.uk/pudsey