Zoe Rainey

Zoe Rainey says "anything is possible" with the right mindset

Fifteen-year-old Zoe Rainey has big ambitions - to present the world's longest-running children's TV programme, CBBC's Blue Peter.

While the bright lights of the studio may be a few years away yet, Zoe has already made a strong impression on the show.

The Belfast teenager has earned eight coveted Blue Peter badges since 2020.

They were awarded for achievements in sport, reading, environmentalism, music and art.

Zoe has spina bifida, hydrocephalus, epilepsy and associated complications, which have required her to undergo 11 brain surgeries.

"I'm so proud of myself, I'm really happy and it just goes to show people even if you have a disability, anything is possible when you believe in yourself and you have a great mindset," she told BBC News NI.

Kirsty Rainey, Zoe Rainey

"One of Zoe's mottos is 'never give up'... she's always smiling" - Zoe's mum Kirsty

As a fan of Londonderry-born presenter Adam B, Zoe started watching him on Blue Peter during the Covid pandemic.

"From that episode, she was totally hooked and she hasn't missed a single episode since," Zoe's mum Kirsty explained.

As the family were shielding at home, Zoe focused on learning how to cook and bake, and she was inspired to write to the programme to earn her first badge.

Zoe Rainey and Adam B

Zoe started watching Blue Peter because of presenter Adam B

Blue badges are awarded for sending in interesting letters, stories, craft creations and ideas.

"So she she sat down with her iPad, typed her own letter, added her photos and then asked us if we could post it for her," Kirsty said.

"And that was the start of it once she got her first badge back. She was so excited. She was straight back on the website, and it was 'which one can I go for next?'," she added.

'I just kept on going'

Kirsty said the family try to focus on Zoe's abilities, rather than her disabilities, and she is eager to try as many new activities as possible.

"She's a happy, easy-going child and she loves a challenge," Kirsty explained.

"She will always give something a try, she really is a determined young lady... we'll always encourage her to take part in things that are appropriate for her and find a way for her to have the experiences."

Zoe Rainey and Mary Peters

Zoe raised over £6,000 for the Mary Peters Trust, an inclusive charity which helps young athletes

One of Zoe's biggest achievements earned her a sports badge when she raised over £6,000 for charity as part of the Mary Peters Trust's Pass the Torch campaign.

With a new hand cycle attachment for her wheelchair, and little practice beforehand, Zoe completed 11 laps (approximately 4km) of Belfast's Mary Peters Track in August 2021.

Olympic gold medallist Lady Mary even joined Zoe for a lap or two.

"It was just amazing, it was brilliant, I had a lot of fun and I did it all without having any breaks, no stopping, I just kept on going and - boom - did it," Zoe said.

Zoe was then awarded "fundraiser of the year" for her efforts and was invited to join Lady Mary at an awards dinner that December.

A second Blue Peter sports badge was earned for surfing and ice skating - opportunities made possible through the May Murray Foundation.

Zoe Rainey surfing and ice skating with family

"She loved [the surfing] because she can also do that with her sister, we can all do things together, and it's just life as it should be, all getting out," Kirsty said.

"One of Zoe's mottos is 'never give up'. She sets a great example to us all. When she gets an idea about something that she wants to do, she finds a way to do it.

"Whatever it is, Zoe's up for the adventure."

Ed Sheeran with his badge, shown in detail on the right

Sheeran's design, seen in detail on the right, features piano keys and music notes

Her favourite badge is a colourful, limited edition music emblem designed by Ed Sheeran, which was awarded for her participation in the peace proms as well as for learning piano.

A green badge, made from a recycled yoghurt pot, puts Zoe alongside Sir David Attenborough - who was awarded one in 2019 - for her environmentalism efforts and ideas to encourage families to reduce their screen time.

Zoe's purple fan club badge was awarded for suggesting the programme should introduce a presenter who requires a wheelchair - an idea that was implemented last year when Abby Cook was chosen as the 42nd Blue Peter presenter.

'Very inspirational'

Zoe recently led an assembly at her school, Fleming Fulton, with the aim of inspiring her classmates to undertake their own challenges.

"She did a whole presentation herself, prepared and delivered it," her form tutor Ms Murphy said.

"She's so kind and just wanted to make that opportunity known to all the other pupils."

Zoe Rainey and Ms Murphy

"For myself and the school we are just delighted at how much she has achieved," says Zoe's form tutor, Ms Murphy

Ms Murphy said the school is delighted by how much the Year 11 pupil has achieved to date.

"I think it's a real testament to how much you can do if you put your mind to it... she's just very inspirational," she added.

So what's next for Zoe and her badges?

She's only missing two of them - an orange one, which is awarded to competition winners, and the highly-coveted gold.

That badge is the show's highest accolade and famous recipients include Mary Berry, Paul McCartney, King Charles and Queen Camilla.

Only a small number of gold badges are awarded each year, to people who have inspired a nation, saved a life or who have shown bravery and courage.

They are also commonly awarded to former presenters - which is Zoe's masterplan, "hopefully", she said.

"It doesn't really matter if you have a disability. Nothing is impossible when you've got friends and family by your side. You can do anything that you put your mind to."


From BBC




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