St Albans burns victim is runner up in Young People of the Year awards

HER ballet career was abruptly ended when she suffered terrible scars in a scalding accident but Adele Pope was determined to help other burns victims.

She has posed naked in a national magazine, taken part in a TV documentary, released a charity single and spoken at school assemblies.

Now Adele, 22, of Ash Grove, Wheathampstead, has been named as runner-up in the annual University of Herts Young People of the Year (YOPEY) awards.

She was presented with �400 including �200 for The Katie Piper Foundation in front of a 300-strong audience including representatives of the Queen, Mayors and council chairmen from across Herts.

They heard that Adele was a 15-year-old ballet student when her life was changed irrevocably.

She was taking a shower when she suffered her first epileptic fit. During the attack, she knocked the tap and collapsed under scalding water.

Her mum Denise recalled: “We were going out, it was Christmas time. She got up early in the morning to wash her hair and the last thing she remembers is putting her hands up to rinse her hair. It was five or six days later when she came around in hospital.

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“She was scalded from her neck, all down her back and her arms.

“She had skin grafts using skin from her legs. When she came round nothing was the same. She didn’t look the same, she couldn’t move, they had shaved off all her hair.”

Adele was inspired by Katie Piper, the victim of an acid attack that left Katie with a severe facial disfigurement.

Having watched the television documentary Katie: My Beautiful Face, Adele became an ambassador for the Katie Piper Foundation. The foundation aims to make life easier for those with burns and scars.

She sees her role as an ambassador for the foundation as two-fold and explained: “Firstly to show the public that scars and disfigurements aren’t the end of the world. Secondly I feel that I can also serve the scarred or disfigured community by putting my scars out there for the world to see. You can still do everything you want to despite your scars.”

Adele never lets her scars stop her doing anything. She has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro in Africa to raise �1,500 for Save the Children, and has volunteered to help build an HIV centre in Tanzania.

On a more personal level if she wants to wear a backless dress that shows off her scars she will do so.

“Before my accident I wanted to be a ballet dancer but with my scars I couldn’t do ballet any more. I had to start considering other careers and having been in hospital my experience inspired me to consider it as a possibility.”

Adele, who graduated from university this summer, is currently doing work experience with the surgeon who looked after her following the accident.

She was presented with the second-place YOPEY prize by Ross Renton, the university’s Dean of Students, who said: “To talk about a personal experience is hard enough but to go a step further and share it with the media and public is outstanding.

“Adele is not only battling to change people’s attitudes, but is also fighting the prejudices that sadly remain in society today. She has shown great courage in overcoming her injuries and has contributed enormously in helping people, who also have burns and scars, by not hiding away.”

He added “You are simply amazing, a real inspiration to us all.”

Another finalist from the Herts Advertiser area was Rob Garrihy, of Saxon Close, Harpenden. The 19 year old has had both hips replaced because of the condition Ankylosing Spondylitis, a form of arthritis, and had to give up his sporting passions of running and rugby.

Rob, who fundraises for a charity that supports sufferers, said: “It’s not all doom and gloom, we can beat it no matter how hard the condition.

The winner of the YOPEY awards was Emma Peacock, 21, of Waltham Cross, who has reduced anti-social behaviour by setting up a youth group on a troubled estate.

This year’s sponsor were the University of Herts, Mitsubishi Electric, North Herts District Council, Runwood Homes, Johnson Matthey and Tesco.