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Golden Heart Awards honor siblings of children with special needs

Awards celebrated for 16th year
Posted at 7:36 PM, Apr 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-15 19:46:20-04

PALM CITY, Fla. — Siblings of children with special needs or disabilities received a touching recognition.

The Golden Heart Awards were held in Palm City.

The children often grow up quickly, learning to put themselves second and become a lifeline for their families.

Siblings of children with special needs sacrifice so much of their own time and attention.

A former Challenger School principal, Susan Burrows, realized this and started an award to recognize all of the love and support the siblings give to their families.

The Golden Heart Awards were celebrated this month for the 16th year.

Ava Gunter, Golden Heart Award recipient
Ava Gunter with her sister Claire at the 2022 Golden Heart Awards.

Dozens of siblings were nominated by their teachers and given a plaque, a heart pin and a limo ride to give them a night that makes them feel special, putting them at the center of the attention.

For some of the award winners, they walked their sibling to class, talk to their teachers about anything that might be going on with their sibling, help them make friends, do their homework, shower and just help them get by in life.

Ava Gunter was one of those Golden Heart Award recipients.

"This is Claire, she is 15 … I always drive her around and just babysit. ... It's nice to know that I'm not the only one," Gunter said. "Other people feel the same way, and they’re also helping in the same way, and it's also encouraging, too."

Sydney Young, first sibling to receive the Gold Heart Award
Sydney Young explains what the Gold Heart Award means to recipients.

Susan Burrows named the award the Sydney Young Gold Heart Award in honor of the first sibling she gave the recognition to.

Young has attended every award ceremony since then.

At a young age, she helped take care of her late brother, JW, who had cerebral palsy.

"When I was young I was babysitting him, feeding him through his G-tube, changing his diapers. You grow up quickly because your parent or whoever really needs your help," Young said.

She helped hand out the awards and pins Friday.

"Even though it's just a plaque and golden heart, I'm sure it means the world to them that they're getting recognized," Young said.