Our Heroes awards 2012: Stories of true inspiration reduce audience to tears
IT WAS a night of high emotion, of laughter and tears, as unsung heroes rubbed shoulders with celebrities and VIPs for a celebration of all that is good in our communities.
The annual Sentinel Our Heroes Awards ceremony, sponsored by the Aspire Group, was held last night at the Moat House Hotel, Festival Park, Etruria.
• GALLERY: The Sentinel's Our Heroes awards 2012
It highlighted the extraordinary lives and achievements of ordinary people from across North Staffordshire and South Cheshire.
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During the past seven years The Sentinel has published more than 1,000 heart-warming, inspirational stories and prizes have been given out to more than 200 award-winners.
Following a black-tie dinner, 29 awards were handed out during an Oscars-style ceremony hosted by Aspire Group chief executive Sinéad Butters and Sentinel columnist Martin Tideswell.
The first award of the evening, presented by Potteries-born stage star Jonathan Wilkes, was for Bright Young Thing.
Rising sports star Eve Greenway, aged 10, from Stone, was honoured after winning medals for rowing, excelling at gymnastics and helping to coach other children.
The second runner-up was six-year-old Edward Dyster, also from Stone, who braved lashing rain and strong winds to complete a 150-mile cycle ride to raise money for the Donna Louise Children's Hospice.
The overall winner of the award was 17-year-old Nathan Blackaby, of Meir, whose selflessness left the competition judges speechless. He became the carer for his foster mum Violet Keeling who was struck down by illness, lost her sight and then died in March.
Hollyoaks actress Rachel Shenton, from Caverswall, was next on stage to present the Child of Courage award.
The first runner-up was 14-year-old Aimee Seabridge, of Biddulph, who was praised by the judges for the way in which she had dealt with the death of her mum while coping with a condition which makes her hair fall out.
Seven-year-old Billy Heslop, from Fenton, was also honoured for providing support to poorly children while coming to terms with his own life-threatening condition – primary intestinal lymphangiectasia.
The Child of Courage 2012 was nine-year-old Dylan Kelsall, from Longton, who has suffered with a muscle-wasting disease since the age of three and faces surgery every six months to adjust rods in his back to prevent the curvature of his spine.
Stoke City chairman Peter Coates presented the prizes in the Community Group of the Year category. The first runner-up was a group of villagers who clubbed together to raise £199,000 to buy and save the Grade II listed Hollybush pub at Seighford and are transforming into a hub for village life.
Also commended was the Bentilee Valley Group – volunteers who devote their time to making Stoke-on-Trent's largest housing estate a better place in which to live. The overall winner was a group which has been empowering women suffering with cancer and is a genuine example of NHS patient care at its best. The Fresh Hair Wigs And Beauty Salon offers a vital service to women who suffer hair loss as a result of cancer treatment and was founded by a former patient.
Long-time supporter of the Our Heroes Awards, Stoke-on-Trent's Olympic gold medal-winning hockey player Imran Sherwani, was next on stage to present the prizes for School Star.
The first runner-up was Adam Reynolds, a teacher at Wolstanton High School, whose work with pupils taking part in the Young Enterprise initiative impressed the judges.
Also honoured was Lesley Brown, a part-time classroom assistant at John Baskeyfield Primary School in Burslem, who gives up much of her spare time to encourage children into sports activities.
The School Star 2012 was Pauline Norvall who recently retired from Fenton's Kemball Special School where she had spent three decades ensuring children with severe learning and physical difficulties were given access to the best education.
Legendary Potteries entertainer Pete Conway presented the awards in the Good Neighbour category.
Great-grandparents David and June Ozanne, from Alsager – who are both in their eighties – were honoured for devoting more than half their lives to helping their community with everything from repairing burst pipes and computers to volunteering for the Meals on Wheels service.
The second runner-up was Nicola Craggs, aged 41, from Joiners Square, who started a children's group and is battling for new play park.
Steve Meakin, aged 60, of Newcastle, scooped the overall award for his work representing housing tenants across North Staffordshire.
Author, TV personality and animal rights campaigner Wendy Turner-Webster – one of the Our Heroes judges – presented the prizes in the Adult Carer category.
First on stage was Alison Clarke, aged 44, of Clayton, who became the full-time carer for her two grandchildren because her daughter Samantha found it difficult to cope with her disabled son Kai.
The second-runner up was Alan Tucker, aged 60, of Milton, who has been providing round-the-clock care for his wife Jennifer – who has cerebral palsy – for more than 40 years.
Stephen Allerton, aged 48, of Meir, was named Adult Carer of the Year after giving up his job as an engineer to care for his mother, father and brother.
Comedian Nick Hancock stepped up to present the prizes in the Hero of he NHS category.
First to be commended was surgeon John Scholey, of Sandbach, who quite literally puts a smile back on people's faces. The 42-year-old, who works at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire, has been crowned the best dental specialist in the country – winning the 2012 Smile Awards for transforming a patient's teeth.
Nurse Paul Broad, aged 52 and from Newcastle, was the second runner-up and was honoured for devising a pioneering training scheme which has helped to reduce incidents of violence towards staff at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire (UNHS). Veteran midwife Christine Kettle, aged 62, who grew up in Newcastle, was named Hero of the NHS 2012 for her work over four decades caring for new mums. She is now an internationally-recognised authority on the subject – based at UNHS.
Stoke City legend and England World Cup-winning goalkeeper Gordon Banks OBE was on stage next to hand out the Charity Champion/Volunteer of the Year awards.
Ralph Johnson, aged 70, from Biddulph, was named the first runner-up having spent more than 50 years helping to rescue adventurers stuck in caves. He co-founded the Crewe Climbing and Potholing Club in 1957.
Kim and Jon Southall, of Meir, were honoured for setting up a national charity and raising thousands of pounds to raise awareness of autism which affects their young son Dylan.
Graham and Pat Bourne, of May Bank, were named overall winners after dedicating more than 100 years to the scouting movement.
The prizes for the Beyond The Call of Duty were presented by the Deputy Chief Constable of Staffordshire, Doug Paxton.
Detective Constable Janet Coope, aged 41, from Stone, was the first runner-up and was commended for her three years of work which led to the imprisonment of three members of the same family who were found guilty of harrowing sexual abuse offences.
Paramedic Rita Davies, aged 53, from Cheshire, was honoured for tackling a knife-wielding patient who tried to attack a West Midlands Ambulance Service colleague.
The winners of the Beyond The Call of Duty Award 2012 were four Territorial Army Medics: Simon Davies, aged 52, of Stone; Rachel Whitehouse, aged 35, of Newcastle; Dawn Moss, aged 38, of Stoke; and Pamela Crowley, aged 44, of Newchapel; who have been saving the lives of UK soldiers on the front line in Afghanistan.
Realise Foundation chair Alison Knight presented the inaugural Realise Foundation Award.
It was a posthumous award given to Matthew Goodall, of Birches Head, who died unexpectedly in June, after suffering a heart attack aged just 26.
The award was collected by his six-year-old son Corey who received a standing ovation.
Sentinel editor-in-chief Mike Sassi presented the final award.
Marjorie Machin MBE, of Basford, received The Sentinel Editor's Award for her work supporting the Douglas Macmillan Hospice over five decades.
Marjorie, aged 92, was the founder administrator of the original appeal to create the Blurton hospice which has cared for generations of terminally-ill people across North Staffordshire.
The 250-strong Our Heroes audience were also treated to performances by stars from last week's Stoke's Top Talent show. Competition finalist David Jiminez Hughes, aged 21, of Silverdale, mesmerised the audience with his unique style of guitar playing and Top Talent winner Carrie-Ann Williams – a 23-year-old opera singer from Congleton – brought the evening to a close with her rendition of Nessun Dorma.