MONMOUTHSHIRE youngster Dante Valaydon-Pillay is this year’s winner of the Pride of Gwent Award.

Dante, 12, took home two awards from the winners’ ceremony last Thursday, December 7: the Fundraiser of the Year Award, followed by the overall Pride of Gwent Award chosen by sponsors for the 13 award categories.

He came to the Rodney Parade event (sponsored by ND Care & Support) as the first-ever winner of the Sir Terry Wogan Fundraiser of the Year Award.

Rather than rest on his laurels, the Raglan schoolboy is taking on a series of 12 charity fundraising challenges over 12 months.

South Wales Argus: Pride of Gwent Awards 2023

The challenges will take determined Dante across the breadth of Gwent – from sleeping inside a tent for a month, in his own backyard, to canoeing the length of the River Wye.

Dante took a day off school to accept the Fundraiser award, which was also sponsored by ND Care & Support – but the overall award at the end of the event came as a total surprise.

“I was sat in the crowd thinking I’m probably not going to win it,” he said. “I was overjoyed.”

Despite originally keeping his award a secret from his friends, he committed to taking both framed certificates into school the following day.

South Wales Argus:

Dante’s first two challenges have seen him climb and abseil down Clifton Gorge and complete a 5km run at Tredegar House in his one-of-a-kind Children in Need hoodie.

“I’m excited for the rest of my challenges now…” he said, one award tucked under each arm. “This would be a good one – walking up Pen y Fan every day for a month!”

For December's challenge, he is baking dozens of Christmas cakes for the elderly residents at Penpergwym House, Abergavenny, and at some point in the year he hopes to return to Rodney Parade to sing the Welsh national anthem in front of a crowd.

South Wales Argus: Guest host Angela Jay talks to Dante on stage

He even used the occasion of the Pride of Gwent winners' ceremony to size up a future challenge with Newport Foodbank, winner of the Charity Award.

Dante traces his fundraising spirit back to a “terrible time” when he was six, and mum Frances spent three months in hospital after a series of strokes.

“I’m a miracle, but that’s what made Dante think,” said Ms Valaydon-Pillay. “He knows not all kids are as fortunate as he was.

“That was a terrible time but Dante’s turned it into a positive. He’s a quiet hero.”