8 year old spreading laughter

100. Grace Franklin (Billingham)

An eight year old girl from Billingham was presented with the UK’s 100th Point of Light volunteering award at the NATO summit last night.

Grace Franklin won the award for writing a joke book based on conversations with her dad while he was serving in Afghanistan. She sells the books with all proceeds going to the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.

Grace was invited to NATO along with American Point of Light winner and fellow military daughter, 18 year old Michaela Coplen from Pennsylvania, to discuss how military children can be supported. They ran a workshop for military children at Llantwich Major school before being officially presented with their awards by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon on board HMS Duncan in Cardiff Bay.

Grace’s dad served as a Captain in the Royal Engineers and completed 27 years of service in 2013. He served in Afghanistan in 2012, and Grace found it very upsetting to say goodbye when it was time to end their phone calls. Instead Grace started telling a joke each time they had to hang up and was helped to come up with them by her mum Jenny and sister Elizabeth, 17. 

She took 6 months to write all the jokes down and published ‘The little Book of Jokes’ in 2013. It has since sold over 600 copies and has raised over £650. Grace’s favourite joke in the book is ‘What do you get if a monster sits on Batman and Robin? A flatman and ribbon!”

Michaela,18, coped with the anxiety and isolation of having both parents in the military by writing poetry and using it to help others in the same position. She leads workshops for military children on how to use poetry to release some of the emotions that arise in the life of a military child. She has also produced a handbook and is working on virtual workshops to spread this approach to children at other military bases. Michaela was named American National Student Poet in a special ceremony at the White House with First Lady Michelle Obama in September 2013. Grace and Michaela are the first cross-Atlantic Points of Light ‘pair’ who will work together to develop their own volunteering and encourage others to volunteer too.

Prime Minister David Cameron said:

“I’m delighted to name Grace the UK’s 100th Point of Light. Grace turned a difficult time for her family into an opportunity to put smiles on faces and raise money for a good cause.

“From sixteen year old Molly who saved her local BMX team, to Scout Leader Amir dedicating hundreds of hours to pioneering the growth of Scouting in Muslim communities  – the hundred Points of Light we have found in the UK are an incredible group of people with truly inspirational stories of service.

 “It’s fantastic that Grace will now pair up with US Point of Light winner Michaela Coplen to grow their volunteering together at home and abroad.”

Grace said:

“I believe that if everyone just did a little bit to help the world would be a better place, I’m just doing my little bit to help. I feel excited and very proud to be given this award.”     

Grace’s dad, a recently retired Captain, Glen Franklin said:

“I was extremely proud to serve in the army and enjoyed every moment of it.  There were however, times when you were away from your loved ones and it could be very difficult.  Grace is an amazing little girl and her sense of humour, jokes and the overall way she dealt with my being away was incredible.  To write the book and raise money for the Royal British Legion of which I am president of my local branch, means a massive amount to me and the RBL and I am the proudest dad in the world to see her be given this award.”

The daily Points of Light award recognises outstanding individual volunteers - people who are making a change in their community.

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