Family of brave Sarah Emmott who died at just eight years old creates Purple Heart Award in her memory

The family of a girl who captured the hearts of people across Leeds with her valiant fight against countless health conditions are launching a new school award in her memory - to mark what would have been her ninth birthday.

By Daniel Sheridan
Thursday, 19th May 2022, 4:45 am
Sarah Emmott with family dad Andy, mum Ellie and brother Dane
pic: Bruce Rollinson
Sarah Emmott with family dad Andy, mum Ellie and brother Dane pic: Bruce Rollinson

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Sarah Emmott battled through serious illness throughout her life after she was born with a severe genetic kidney disease.

The schoolgirl received a kidney transplant in 2020 after a high-profile campaign.

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Sarah Emmott with Kalvin Phillips Pic: Bruce Rollinson

However, little fighter Sarah was diagnosed with Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis - an extremely rare and life threatening immune system disease - and sadly died in September 2021, just one day before the first anniversary of her kidney transplant.

Sarah's story resonated with thousands across our city and her infectious smile also captured the heart of Leeds United's Kalvin Phillips, who paid tribute to her by holding up a shirt reading 'RIP Sarah' following her death.

Now, Sarah's parents Ellie, 49, Andy, 52, and brother Dane, 17, are marking what would have been her ninth birthday with the launch of a special trophy to be given out at her school every year going forward - dubbed the 'Purple Heart Award'.

Mum Ellie, an installation planner for Tadcaster based Innserve, said the award will be given out at Riverside School to a pupil who had overcome adversity in the past 12 months.

The Purple Heart Award set to be given out each year - engraved with Sarah's handwriting

She hoped the award will provide inspiration to children suffering their own personal circumstances, yet battle on each day, with a smile - "just as Sarah always did".

"The award will be given to a pupil, nominated by the staff of the school, who has suffered adversity in the past 12 months, yet still attended school showing incredible resilience and continued to try their best, still smiling while enduring their own difficult circumstances.

"We have made pin badges too which say Purple Heart Award on them, hopefully the kids will wear them with pride."

Ellie told the YEP how much Sarah loved school - which she said was where she "became herself".

Sarah Emmott with Kalvin Phillips Pic: Bruce Rollinson

"Sarah battled so many different illnesses and conditions and was not academic, but she blossomed when she was at school", Ellie said.

"Sarah used to jump up and down just at the thought of going.

"I watched her grow up every day she came home from being there, she loved it to see her friends."

For the family, who adopted Sarah as a baby, her birthday is a time of remembrance.

The Purple Heart Award set to be given out each year - engraved with Sarah's handwriting

"She was such a magnetic character", Ellie told the YEP.

"When you lose a chid you fear they may be forgotten.

"You want them to be remembered.

"With Sarah, I can't express how much people took to her.

"She gave so much to everything she did.

"She enriched every room she was in, and everyone she met."

Sarah at school in the summer of 2021

Sarah loved the colour purple.

A purple heart has now become synonymous with support for her family across social media and Ellie believed the choice of name reflected the motives behind the award.

A trophy will be presented on Friday to the child chosen by teachers, with Sarah's handwriting adorning the front.

Her former classmates and the rest of the school have also been invited to come into the school wearing the colour on Friday in her memory.

They will each donate £1 which will go towards a special memorial garden set to be built on the school grounds, thanks to the efforts of a landscaper who offered to help.

"It is a symbol of her", Ellie said.

"Her school has been absolutely amazing with us and I am hoping the garden will be a place for the children to reflect and remember Sarah.

"The award will be for bravery, determination and resilience and that is what she was all about.

"The garden will be something beautiful and lovely for the children and her memory will live on through the space."