This year’s Panathlon Jack Petchey Awards Ceremony takes place on November 15 at John Lewis Stratford in London, and will feature the prestigious Jack Petchey Outstanding Achievement Award. Take a look at Jessica Howard, one of this year’s nominees for the top prize.

Jessica Howard’s courage in the face of severe adversity has resulted in her nomination for this year’s Jack Petchey Outstanding Achievement Award, Panathlon’s top individual honour in the London and Essex area. 

She has CHARGE syndrome and so is deafblind/multi-sensory impaired (MSI). One of the features of CHARGE is retinal coloboma, a hole in one of the structures of the eye. The hole is present from birth and can be caused when a gap called the choroidal fissure fails to close up completely before a child is born, thus producing blindness. It affects less than one in every 10,000 births. 

Jessica, 17, is currently at Oak Lodge School, which specialises in students with hearing, speech, language and communication needs.  

Initially, she was very shy and talked to herself, but in the past 12 months she is signing much better and is easily understood, enhancing her communication and interaction skills. 

Since Jessica joined Oak Lodge, she has got involved in Panathlon and attended various external events, including boccia, the Panathlon South East Swimming Finals at the Aquatics Centre in the Queen Elizabeth II Olympic Park, the London Deaf Multisport Panathlon and the London Panathlon Multisport Finals at the Copper Box Arena. 

She now meets and greets people, communicates with everyone and says hello in various ways. 

Jessica has also attended lots of intra-competition, including basketball, cross-country, cricket and fun sport days. 

Taking part in Panathlon has helped her confidence, as well as her interaction with staff and pupils, which has developed immeasurably in the last year. 

Jessica showed tremendous courage on a week-long residential trip to the Isle of Wight, where she took part in an array of activities, including high ropes, zip wire, beach games and many others. 

She has also shown tremendous strength and resilience despite adversity, and has demonstrated to her peers at Oak Lodge and at Panathlon events that anyone can overcome any barrier if you put your mind to it. 

Duncan Rowley, a teacher at Oak Lodge School, said: “Jessica is very willing to try anything now. Being deafblind doesn’t stop her from doing anything that she wants to do.  

“She is a very keen participant in all sports activities at Oak Lodge School. Her enthusiasm outweighs any visual difficulty she might have when participating and this has a positive effect on other children at school, seeing that if Jessica can do this, then they can.”  


Last year Colchester teenager Ethan-Beau Howes won the Jack Petchey Outstanding Achievement Award.  

Ethan-Beau was the eighth winner of the annual award, which celebrates some of the most inspirational individuals to compete in London and Essex Panathlon events each year. 

This year’s Panathlon Jack Petchey Awards Ceremony takes place on November 15 at John Lewis Stratford in London.

Jack Petchey - Large John Lewis Stratford City