Presenter Greg James and Prof Brian Cox surprise Radio One's Teen Hero Leon, 15

Leon Gardiner a teenager from Paignton

Leon Gardiner - Credit: Pic: Submitted

A teenage boy from Torbay who lives with a very rare and life-limiting disease has been awarded the title of BBC Radio 1’s Teen Hero. 

Leon Gardiner, 15 and from Paignton, lives with Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The progressive condition causes muscles to weaken and waste over time. 

Leon was blown away when he received a surprise video call from radio royalty Greg James. The BBC 1’s Breakfast Show presenter named Leon a Teen Hero after his sister, Emma, nominated him for the award. Leon even got to have a one-to-one conversation with his idol, Professor Brian Cox. 

An Instagram message from Greg James

Greg James's Instagram message - Credit: Pic :Submitted

In a letter to the show, Emma said: “My brother needs a shout out in a world he feels very much forgotten about.” 

That’s because since February both Leon and his mum have been shielding to keep him safe. Leon, who has had to use a wheelchair since the age of eight, needs mechanical arms to raise his hand to his face, can no longer scratch his own head without assistance, and relies on a drinking straw. 

Emma added: “We haven't been able to hug or go and see each other so it's no surprise that lockdown has been very difficult for his mental health. He's not even left his house to go for walks. He is a real superhero and I’m so in awe of his resilience.” 

And while Christmas is usually a huge celebration for all 18 members of Leon’s family to join together, this year it will be just Leon and his mum Dawn. 

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Greg James surprised Leon over a video call while the teenager was getting ready for what he thought was a day of virtual schoolwork. Professor Cox delighted Leon by joining the call, and the pair discussed their favourite planets, plans for Christmas quizzes, and spaced-themed films. 

Dawn said: “Leon’s mental ability and strength is inspiring.” 

Robert Burley, Director of Campaigns, Care and Support at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “We are delighted that Leon has been named as Radio 1’s Teen Hero.” 

The MDUK support team are able to take calls Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 10am-4pm, and Tuesday 10am-6pm on freephone 0800 652 6352. Alternatively, you can email The MDUK helpline is closed from 4pm on Thursday 24 December until 10am on Monday 4 January. A list of emergency contact numbers at