The late Donal Walsh was honoured by the NNI for his "outstanding contribution to public debate" .
The Kerry teenager, who died from cancer earlier this year, spoke out about the issue of suicide while he was in the final months of his own illness.
Accepting the award, his mother Elma Walsh spoke of her son's hope to combine his love of sport and writing with a career in sports journalism.
She said he had a photo of a Sunday Independent piece he wrote on his phone "so he could be reminded of what he wrote and also the cheque he received".
However, Ms Walsh also spoke of her disappointment at the poor outcomes for cancer sufferers in Ireland.
“Donal fought cancer for five years. It amazed and shocked him that in 2008 there was very little likelihood of a cure for his illness. Speaking to professionals, it seems little has changed in the last five years.”
“I’ve come to believe the public in general are not aware of the poor outcome of cancer treatments. So often, cancer research is left up to individual organisations to raise finances for their particular cancers.”
Presenting the award , RTÉ host Brendan O’Connor said: “To an Ireland down at heel materially and spiritually Donal Walsh’s words were a reminder to us to count our blessings and be thankful for the simple things in life.”