Beacon of hope

The Olympic Flame represents peace, unity and friendship. An iconic symbol of the Games, the flame is lit by the sun’s rays at the Temple of Hera in Olympia in a traditional ceremony among the ruins of the home of the Ancient Games.

It then makes its way via a relay to the host city, travelling by various means of transport, such as air, rail, road, boat and, most importantly, in the hands of inspirational individuals.

Being asked to carry the torch is a great honour. This summer, 8,000 people around the country carried the flame during the 70-day relay.

Nominated by people in the community for a range of good deeds, the torchbearers came from diverse backgrounds, many overcoming adversity to have their moment in the spotlight. One such torchbearer was University of Wolverhampton graduate, Ceri Davies.

Ceri, who has cerebral palsy and spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, was nominated to carry the torch for her commitment to volunteering and youth work by the Diana Award.

The 22-year-old was among the torchbearers in Wolverhampton, and was supported along the route by her family and friends.

“It was amazing,” she says. “I had such a good time – it was a very positive and emotional experience.”

Dedicated volunteer

Ceri, who graduated with a 2:1 BA (Hons) degree in Early Childhood Studies and Sociology from the University in 2011, has been involved in volunteering and youth work since she was 13.

She was nominated for the honour of carrying the Olympic torch by Katie Marple, Network Co-ordinator at the Diana Award. Ceri was invited to 10 Downing Street in 2009 to receive one of ten Golden Diana Awards, for her work as a dedicated and active member of Dudley Youth Council.

Over the years, Ceri has played a big role in the Diana Award organisation, joining the Youth Advisory Board and becoming head of the Regional Hub for the West Midlands and she is also on the Alumni Advisory Board.

It is this commitment to youth work that was recognised when Ceri was nominated and selected to be part of the historic Olympic torch relay.

“When it was my turn with the torch, I thought about everything I have done in youth participation and the young people I have worked with across the country. I very much felt that it was for everyone who has supported me. I felt like it was recognition of everything I have done since I was 13 until now,” she adds.

Camaraderie

There was also a great sense of camaraderie between the torchbearers on the day, as Ceri explains:

“I first met the other torchbearers at the Civic Centre in Wolverhampton. I was the first person on my coach to take part in the relay, and I felt they were really proud of me.

“All the torchbearers on my coach were really nice and have made a huge difference to their community and we were all proud of each other. They were exceptional individuals.

“I agreed with the person who was carrying the torch after me that we would do a dance and hug as we did the change-over. It was sensational.”

After all the excitement in Wolverhampton, Ceri went to Cannon Hill Park in Birmingham for the evening celebration, where the boy band The Wanted performed for the crowds.

“That was surreal and as someone who is really interested in the arts, I really enjoyed seeing all the live dancing,” she says.

Since receiving the Diana Award, Ceri has gone on to set-up her own consultancy company, CD Participation Services, which offers research, motivational speaking and youth work. She was a speaker at the United Nations Rights of a Child conference.

She has set up a fundraising organisation which aims to raise funds for disadvantaged and disabled children across the UK and she also works with numerous other charities.

Ceri is also now a Youth Network Leader for Arts Award in the West Midlands and an associate with the Black Country Children’s Services Improvement Partnership (BCCSIP), of which the University is a partner, ensuring Ceri’s journey with Wolverhampton continues.

Proud moment

Ceri’s time in the Olympic spotlight was an extremely proud moment for her supporters, especially her parents and sister Rhianna.

The University was also delighted to see the light shone on one of its inspirational graduates.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Geoff Layer, says: “Everyone at the University is extremely proud of Ceri’s achievements and we’re delighted that she was given the honour of carrying the Olympic torch.”

Being involved with the Diana Award has transformed Ceri’s life, and she is quick to thank them for their support.

“I’d like to say thank you to the Diana Award for nominating me and to everyone who has supported me, particularly the people who came to support me during the torch relay and walk the stretch alongside me.

“I’m hoping carrying the torch will bring some exciting opportunities.”