Teenage cadet fighting cancer and youth who faced tough start in life are nominated for awards

Shelbee Clarke.
Shelbee Clarke.

A teenager described as an inspiration because of thousands of pounds she has helped raise while hit by cancer is in a competition that highlights achievements of young people in Bedfordshire.

Shelbee Clarke has stayed cheerful despite having chemotherapy which caused her to feel unwell and her hair to fall out. During her treatment she ontinued with her duties as a police cadet.

Shane Buckland,centre.

Shane Buckland,centre.

Now she has been assigned a place in Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Young People of the Year, or YOPEY, which reveal, recognise, and reward, young unsung heroes across the county.

There is £2,000 in prize money for young winners to share with good causes - and you have until Sunday, March 2 to make final nominations before they close.

Shelbee, 19, of Walcourt Road, Kempston, was put forward by Sonja Hartwell, training and volunteering administrator with Bedfordshire Police Cadets, who also nominated two others.

Shelbee was a police cadet for two years until last August when she finished the programme. She was the drill sergeant for 40 cadets at Bedford, in charge of uniform, smartness on parade and discipline. She played a major part in their passing-out parade.

Sadly, during this time Shelbee was diagnosed with a rare form of spine cancer but that did not prevent her turning up, though it did put her school studies on hold. Despite losing her hair and feeling unwell, Shelbee continued to attend unless she was in hospital having chemotherapy treatment.

Sonja said: “She has even turned up in her wheelchair, such is her commitment.”

Shelbee turned her personal problem into an opportunity, engaging with cadets, police, family, friends and colleagues at Hastingbury College, Bedford, where she is currently head girl, to raise money for cancer charities.

There were bucket collections, mum Jackie sold jewellery, and others sold Teenage Cancer Trust wristbands and tie-pins. There were also quiz nights with victors donating their winnings, and one person did the Great North Run.

Some people took part in sponsored headshaves. When told she would lose her hair Shelbee selflessly offered to shave her long hair instantly and donate 14 inches to the Prince’s Trust.

And there was an outbreak of knitting. People clicked away with their needles to make bobble hats, which had become Shelbee’s trademark.

She said: “Everybody knows me by my hats because I wore them rather than a wig when having treatment.”

Cadets and schoolmates were among those who bought them, pushing the total raised to more than £10,000, mostly for the Trust but also to CLIC Sargent, another cancer charity.

Shelbee added: “The support from people wanting to raise money has been tremendous.”

Shelbee has continued with the cadets, volunteering her time to teach them drill and other subjects.

She said: “I love the people,­ they are like a big family,

“I love doing the drill and showing others how it should be done.”

Shelbee’s illness interrupted her schooling, but she is now trying for a

place at university to teach physical education.

She is a keen football player and before being diagnosed had won a scholarship to the USA. But she had to miss out because of her illness.

However, the Football Association has linked up with TCT and in December organised a charity match at Wembley Stadium, where Shelbee was invited to as a guest.

She said: “That was awesome.” She got to meet team captains, pop singer Olly Murs and radio presenter Nick Grimshaw, and others.

Ever philosophical, Shelbee, who soon has her last chemotherapy, is looking forward to appearing on top telly show Britain’s Got Talent.

Ironically, because of her hair problems, she is doing a rap version of ‘I whip my hair back and forth.’

She hopes actress Amanda Holden will be on the panel, as she had connections with a patient at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, where Shelbee has had treatment.

She said: “If Simon Cowell is there I’m good at giving as good as I get.”

But selfless Shelbee is doing the programme to raise awareness of the Teenage Cancer Trust, just as she has done in school assemblies.

Sonja said that Shelbee is an inspiration to all. She added: “She is an outstanding member of our team and her community and a great ambassador for cancer charities as she remains optimistic and lively in the face of adversity.

“She continually gives to help those around her. Despite her serious health problems she has kept her sense of humour, been cheerful, and even raised

the spirits of others.”

Sarah Fuller, deputy head of the sixth form at the college also nominated Shelbee, saying that she remained positive and an inspiration to those around her.

In assemblies, Shelbee not only described her experiences but the signs and symptons of cancer to raise young people’s awareness.

Sarah said: “Shelbee is an inspirational young woman who always has a smile on her face and a story to tell regardless of how ill she was feeling throughout her treatment.

“She has channelled her positive outlook on life to spread the word about cancer and its symptoms to many people across the Bedford area, and for that we are proud.”

>> Cadet Shane Buckland, 16, says that the organisation has turned his life around after a tough start for a youngster, which led to problems.

His dad split up from his mum when he was a baby and left the country, so Shane only saw him twice in 13 years. Shane’s mum suffered with cancer and passed away when he was 10. His great gran died later the same year.

Shane was left feeling he had no-one to turn to which upset him.

Shane, who lives his nan at Gratton Road, Queen’s Park, Bedford, always wanted to be in the police since he was young, but he got involved with a gang and committed anti-social behaviour.

He joined the cadets in September with friend Niki Johnson. The police knew about his past, but he was keen to put it behind him.

He said: “The cadets have taught me about people’s emotions and how to control mine so that I don’t lose my temper.

“Sometimes when I get upset I now go and sit in a corner so that I don’t upset anybody else. Since I joined the cadets I feel my life has turned around. I’m now going forward rather than downhill.

“I’ve got more confidence and I’m feeling better in life generally. If I have a problem I go and talk to someone about it.”

With Niki and others, Shane helped run a ‘pampering evening’ for police in aid of Child Victims of Crime. He has engaged with the public on a consultation exercise about police priorities and been to a neighbourhood watch meeting to discuss issues.

He was on duty for the royal visit to Tempsford in December, where Prince Charles talked to the public and relatives of those who flew from RAF Tempsford to help the Resistance during the war.

He said: “I never thought a few years ago I would do something like that.”

Shane, who is studying public service at Bedford College, said the cadet programme can not only help turn people’s lives around, as it had done in his case, but put them on a career path. He wants to join the police and try different units, eventually becoming a dog handler.

Sonja said: “We are pleased with Shane’s progress, including the way that he engages with other cadets and the instructors, He’s very polite and he’s trying hard to keep up with his qualifications. Shane is good at volunteering for public duties.

“When he’s out there he promotes a good image for Bedfordshire Police,” adding that he was encouraging other students to join the cadets.

YOPEY founder Tony Gearing said: “Shelbee has inspired others to raise money for charities through her amazing spirit and dedication to the cadets in the face of adversity.”

As well as Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, sponsors include Central Bedfordshire Council, Atlas Converting Equipment of Kempston, Movianto of Bedford, William Jackson Food Group which includes Parripak in Chicksands, and Carlisle Managed Solutions.

There is a top prize of £800 to be won by a young person or group of young people who help others. The young person or group keeps £400 and gives the other half to a good cause.

Second place will win £400, third and junior winners £200 each, all similarly shared.

>> Do you know somebody who deserves the title Young Person of the Year? To nominate visit www.yopey.org or write, enclosing a stamped-addressed-envelope, to YOPEY, Woodfarm Cottage, Bury Road, Stradishall, Newmarket CB8 8YN for a paper entry form. Entries close on Sunday, March 2.