A TEENAGER who has strived to make a difference to the lives of others has been awarded for blazing a digital trail with his project.
Sixteen-year-old Lewis Hine has spent much of his life in-and-out of hospital since being diagnosed with a brain tumour at the age of one.
He set up website Friend Finder in 2015 to ensure young people living with illness or disability could make friends.
Now Lewis, from Havant, has beaten big-name companies in a public vote to win the Mobile Innovation of the Year accolade at The Digital Leaders 100 Awards – and said The News had been instrumental in his success.
The awards, in London, celebrate teams and individuals who are achieving big things in the digital world – something which Lewis has done with Friend Finder by allowing hundreds of children to stay in touch.
Lewis said: ‘People can upload as much or as little information as they feel comfortable with, like their name, phone number and e-mail address.
‘When two people meet at one of our events they can touch their USB hands together to exchange details, and keep in touch afterwards.’
He added: ‘For about 10 seconds after I found out Friend Finder won the award I sat there in shock, I couldn’t believe it.
‘It’s made me realise what I’ve managed to achieve over the past couple of years.’
Lewis made a 90-second video about his life and Friend Finder in March, which went viral and was viewed by millions – it even attracted praise from Elton John.
The teen runs Friend Finder with family and a team of young people from the community.
Lewis has had brain surgery, but still battles with epilepsy and other health problems. Yet he vows to continue to help young people facing similar challenges.
Due to the success of this month’s Friend Finder Prom at Portsmouth Guildhall, for children who couldn’t go to their own because of poor health, Lewis is planning another for next year.
On Saturday he also spoke at the TEDXTeen event inside London’s 02, where bright and innovative young people took the stage.
Lewis added: ‘My work has paid off, I’m helping others like me and I want to continue to do that and go global.
‘The News has been instrumental in my success.
‘Having that coverage at a local level in everything I do has put the word out about what I want to achieve, and has helped those wanting to find friends.’
Lewis’ sister Chloe Hine also spoke at the event about her work with The Royal Foundation and creating a code of conduct to prevent cyber bullying.
To add to his success, inspirational Lewis also has a book coming out next year about surviving and thriving against the odds.
The release will be accompanied by a national book tour.
Mum Emma Hine couldn’t be prouder of her children, and has spoken of how thankful she is for support.
Emma said: ‘The News has been at the core of everything Lewis has achieved because his stories have been shared with so many people.
‘Without the amazing coverage, people wouldn’t have known they could be helped by Lewis and Friend Finder.
‘The first award he won was a News Youth Award, Hero of the Year – that gave him self-belief and the fuel to carry on.
‘Because of his success it’s easy to forget Lewis is ill. I had to bring him home from London on Thursday night after the awards, even though we were due to stay, because he was having seizures.
‘But he carries on.’
Speaking about why she thinks Lewis won Mobile Innovation of the Year, Emma added: ‘Needing a friend is something everyone can resonate with.’