Inspirational fundraiser Captain Tobias has received his British Empire Medal (BEM) from the Countess of Wessex, who joked that the youngest person to feature on the Honours List might need a new house to fit in all his awards.
The ceremony at Tobias Weller’s school in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, comes just a week after the 11-year-old was named the Young Fundraiser of the Year at the Pride of Britain Awards.
Tobias, who has cerebral palsy and autism, has raised more than £158,000 for Paces School, where he is a student, and The Children’s Hospital Charity, in his home city of Sheffield, through a series of epic challenges.
His achievements were recognised at the highest level when he became the youngest person on record to feature in the Honours List, when it was announced in December that he is to receive the BEM.
The Countess of Wessex presented Tobias with his medal at Paces School’s brand new site in Sheffield on Thursday.
Sophie told him: “You’re the youngest person ever to receive this very, very special award and it is incredibly well deserved. You’ve done such amazing things. Well done.”
She said to him: “I think we’ll see you get some more awards but I’m not sure there’s many awards left to give you.”
Tobias was accompanied by his mother, Ruth Garbutt, and the royal visitor asked him: “Do you think mum needs an award as well?”, prompting cheers and applause in the room.
Sophie said: “You’re a special young man. It’s such an honour for me to give you that award as well, to wear with pride.”
Sophie asked Tobias how many trophies he now has on his shelf and, after a pause to think, he told her: “Loads.”
The royal visitor joked that Tobias might have to expand his trophy shelf to a cabinet, or even move house.
Tobias told Sophie: “It’s a privilege to have been awarded such an honour and it makes me feel absolutely magnificent.
“I can’t really believe I’m the youngest person in British history to receive such an honour.”
Tobias was nicknamed “Captain” after he was inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore to start raising money during the pandemic lockdowns.
He met his hero when he won the inaugural Captain Sir Tom Moore Young Unsung Hero Award at the 2020 BBC Sports Personality of the Year event.
Tobias’s challenges included an Ironman, completed over the course of a year, involving 180km (112 miles) on his trike, a 4km (2.5 miles) swim and running the length of a full marathon.
And his latest campaign has been to make playgrounds more accessible, by encouraging people to complete a kilometre (0.6 miles) in the wackiest way they can imagine.
Mrs Garbutt said; “I am, once again, humbled by the achievements of my wonderful son.
“He just doesn’t stop and faces each new challenge with a determination to succeed.
“I am delighted that his achievements have been recognised and to receive a British Empire Medal is such an honour.
“I am so very proud of him.”
Julie Booth, head of fundraising and communications at Paces School, said: “We are absolutely delighted and would like to congratulate Tobias for receiving his BEM award today.
“This is so well deserved as he has worked tirelessly with his fundraising for both Paces and The Children’s Hospital Charity.
“Tobias’s funds have been used towards out NewHomeForPaces appeal as we moved our children into their new school earlier this week and will make a huge difference to the lives of the families who we support.
“Tobias, we are so incredibly proud of you. To have achieved so much at such a young age is absolutely amazing. Thank you for everything you have done to support our charity.”
Ruth Brown, chief executive at Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We have been absolutely blown away by Tobias’ incredible fundraising efforts and are delighted he is receiving the recognition he deserves.
“The money he has raised is already making such a difference to patients.
“I’ve joined Reece Goodwin, the physiotherapist funded by Tobias, and seen for myself how through his exercise sessions young people are gaining strength, mobility and confidence.
“With Tobias’ help we’ll be able to make lives better for so many children and young people.”