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Westport teen is Ireland’s most Inspirational Young Person


INSPIRING Sophia Shally receives her award from Gary Desmond, CEO of Gala Retail and Gerry Lennon, Commercial Director, INM. Pic: Iain White/Fennell Photography 2019

Following a nationwide search, Ireland’s most inspirational people were honoured at the inaugural Gala Retail/Sunday Independent Inspiration Awards, which took place in the Marker Hotel, Dublin, on Wednesday night last. One of the top awards, Ireland’s Inspirational Young Person, was scooped by 15-year-old Sophia Shally from Westport.
Nominated by her mum, Sophia was presented with the Inspirational Young Person accolade by Paddy Smyth (activist, and winner of Channel 4’s The Circle) in recognition of her strength and positivity.
At just seven months, a devastating fire left Sophia with life-changing burns across her face, hands and scalp. In spite of painful treatment, onerous travel requirements and long periods of time away from friends and family, Sophia finds the strength to stay positive.
A gifted musician, Sophia uses her talents to give back to the community and recently created a CD with her mother which helped raise €10,000 for the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust. Sophia has experienced so much suffering and pain, but she continues to love her life and inspire everyone around her.  
Inspirational people from all across Ireland were nominated for the first-ever Inspiration Awards, with the final winners being selected by a judging panel. The judges included Sunday Independent Life magazine wellness columnist, Alison Canavan; RTÉ’s Marty Morrissey; Special Olympics Ireland’s CEO, Matt English; Gala Retail’s CEO, Gary Desmond; and Head of News at the Sunday Independent, Paul Sheridan.
“My fellow judges and I were incredibly impressed by the strength and positivity displayed by Sophia despite all the pain and treatments she has gone through and continues to go through,” commented Gary Desmond, CEO of Gala Retail.
Inspirational Person of the Year was presented to volunteer Kate Durrant from Blarney, County Cork by former Ireland soccer international, Niall Quinn. Kate also won the Inspiration in the Community Award for her work with Blarney Community First Responders.