A COURAGEOUS nine-year-old who defied the experts to walk and kept smiling through brutal operations has won a prestigious award.

Callum Axford was awarded The Child of Courage Award at the Pride of Essex ceremony, held on Tuesday night.

Callum, nine, lives with an extremely rare combination of cerebral palsy and neurofibromatosis type one, a condition that can cause tumours to grow on the skin, nerves and the brain.

Callum, from Benfleet, refuses to let his condition bring him down and has had a phenomenal year of experiences with the Rays of Sunshine charity, including meeting Arsenal football star Mesut Özil, singing with Alfie Boe at the Royal Albert Hall, and last week he appeared live on BBC One for Children In Need.

His mother, Faye Axford, said he couldn’t contain his excitement when his name was read out at the ceremony at Anglia Ruskin University.

She said: “We’ve known for a while that Callum had made the top five children for the award, but had no idea if he had won until his name was read out.

“Before they announced it the presenters read out each child’s story, and I said to Callum that if his name isn’t read out he shouldn’t feel bad, as making the top five in Essex is still amazing.

“But when it was he started jumping up and down all excited, and immediately took Sophie [his sister]’s hand and took her to get his trophy and certificate.

“He’s always been so good about getting Sophie involved in everything. As she gets older she’s realising Callum is getting a lot of attention, so he makes sure she gets some as well.”

She added: “With Callum’s condition there’s no cure, it’s not going to be a case of one day being no hospital appointments.

“He’s got to live with it, and Rays of Sunshine has made it so wonderful for him.”

A spokesman for Rays of Sunshine said: “Callum is an incredibly brave, special little soul who is full of so much character. He loves to fundraise for us with Sophie.”