A volunteer who has  helped saved the lives of hundreds of men was honoured  for his selfless charity work at  the 2013 Your Champions gala  awards ceremony in Chester.

Gary Steele MBE was declared  the Champion of Champions during an emotional climax to the  26th annual Your Champions  awards which took place at the  Crowne Plaza Hotel in Chester on  Friday.

Described as a ‘one-man crusade’, Gary helped set up the Prostate Cancer Support Group at  Leighton Hospital , near Crewe,  and has worked tirelessly to raise  funds – despite suffering from prostate cancer himself.

Gary’s efforts have meant more  than 2,000 extra men have been  tested for prostate cancer. And last  year, he was made an MBE in the  Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

The audience of winners, VIPs  and representatives from joint  sponsors Trinity Mirror and ScottishPower watched a film of Gary  hard at work spreading the word  about being tested for prostate  cancer.

It was a dramatic climax to another memorable ceremony  which saw winners from the  newspaper circulation areas of  Chester, Flintshire, South  Cheshire, Ellesmere Port, Runcorn and Widnes and Wirral compete for the overall titles in a  number of categories.

Those categories were: Champion Person, Young Person of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Sporting Champion and Team of the  Year.

 

The evening began with an introduction from Carl Wood, commercial director of Trinity Mirror  North West and North Wales, who  spoke of how proud the company was to have been associated with  the Your Champions awards over so many years.

“I attend many events  throughout the year but this has  always been my favourite,” he added.

Neil Clitheroe, CEO retail and generation at ScottishPower, said:  “Tonight you will hear of many  amazing, courageous and selfless  acts from across the whole region.”

He went on to point out that the  concept of Your Champions had  been copied by many other  awards ceremonies across the  UK.

This year’s special celebrity guest was world renowned opera  singer Wynne Evans, best known  as the face and voice of the immensely popular Go Compare TV adverts.

He gave an entertaining talk to  the audience dealing with his incredible success, working with the  Welsh National Opera, the Royal  Opera House in Covent Garden  and at the Sydney Opera House in  Australia as well as a stint in the  title role of The Phantom of the  Opera.

And he rounded off his presentation with a stunning rendition of  The Impossible Dream.

Master of ceremonies, TV news  presenter Trevor Green, then took to the stage to begin the process of  revealing the overall winners on  the night.

And history was made with the  very first category which saw the  judges choose two winners: Georgia Gibbons of Wirral and  Tyler-Jay Faulkner of Ellesmere  Port.

This was followed by the Anya  Bentham Appeal from Chester  and Flintshire picking up Team of  the Year, Jo Sykes of Chester Mystery Plays being named Volunteer  of the Year, Paul Lund of Runcorn  being declared Sporting Champion and the Champion Person of  the Year title going to Angie  Churchill of Wirral.

You can read all their stories as part of our round-up of all the  winners at this year’s Your Champions ceremony.

Champion of Champions - Gary Steele

Trinity Mirror/ Scottish Power Your Champions 2013 Champion of Champions Gary Steele MBE
Trinity Mirror/ Scottish Power Your Champions 2013 Champion of Champions Gary Steele MBE
 

Gary Steele MBE was honoured as the 2013 Champion of  Champions at Friday night’s  Your Champions awards ceremony after years of hard work  in promoting awareness of prostate cancer.

Described as a ‘one-man crusade’, Gary helped set up Leighton Hospital’s Prostate Cancer Support  Group and has worked tirelessly to  raise funds – despite suffering from  prostate cancer himself.

He also spends much of his time  promoting and educating men, including GPs, on issues relating to  prostate cancer and has instigated  prostate cancer screening sessions  among the local community. Earlier this year he helped stage a free  blood testing event at Nantwich  Civic Hall where a small number of  men tested positive. These were all  men who were not receiving treatment and were previously unaware  of any problems.

In all, Gary’s efforts mean more  than 2,000 extra men have been  tested for prostate cancer. Last year,  Gary was made an MBE in the  Queen’s Birthday Honours List.

A spokesman for the prostate cancer support group said: “Gary initiated setting up the support group  at Leighton Hospital and helped to  compile a register of men willing to  talk to newly diagnosed patients  and their families regarding the  treatment, care and living with cancer.

“The group relies on him for information, transport arrangements for treatment and funding.  He has, almost single-handedly,  raised over £600,000 to date, which  has been used for vital equipment,  research, staff specialist cancer  training and promoting awareness.”

As well as fundraising, he has  been responsible for providing a  helpline, books and leaflets and setting up temporary drop-in information centres at supermarkets and  shopping precincts.

Volunteer of the Year - Jo Sykes

Winner of Champion Volunteer of the Year Jo Sykes from Chester Mystery Plays, with Scottish Power host Neil Clitheroe, left, Trinity Mirror host Carl Wood and special guest Wynne Evans, right
Winner of Champion Volunteer of the Year Jo Sykes from Chester Mystery Plays, with Scottish Power host Neil Clitheroe, left, Trinity Mirror host Carl Wood and special guest Wynne Evans, right

Jo Sykes is chairman of Chester Mystery Plays (CMP), a registered charity whose sole purpose is the production of  CMP every five years.

Jo has been involved with CMP since  1962 when, as a young teenager, she performed in the plays.

“She has been whole-heartedly dedicated ever since, joining the board in  1995 and becoming chairman in 2003.  Project manager Jane Dawson, who  nominated Jo, said: “Her voluntary role  is extremely ‘hands-on’ – it is hard to  imagine how this amazing community  event could happen without her.

“She works tirelessly on fundraising  (having personally raised over £100k for the Plays over the years), marketing,  management and tea-making!

“She is a charming and highly effective  figurehead, representing CMP locally,  nationally and internationally – one  minute she’s on BBC Breakfast, the next  handing out leaflets in the city centre in  the pouring rain!

She is CMP’s greatest champion, keeping an incredible (and hugely enjoyable)  part of Chester’s heritage alive.

“Jo is a fantastic leader and role model  for the hundreds of volunteers that form  the CMP company – she encourages and  inspires them all, from the tiniest sheep  to the biggest centurion!

“Jo doesn’t do all this single-handedly,  but it really couldn’t be done without  her!”

There was more good news for Jo on Wednesday, November 20 when the Lord-Lieutenant of Cheshire David Briggs announced in the London Gazette she had been appointed a deputy lieutenant of Cheshire.

Team of the Year - Anya Bentham Appeal

Overall winners of the Champion Team category; Claire Walsh and Michelle Collins from the Anya Bentham Appeal, with special guest Wynne Evans, Trinity Mirror host Carl Wood, left, and Scottish Power host Neil Clitheroe, right
Overall winners of the Champion Team category; Claire Walsh and Michelle Collins from the Anya Bentham Appeal, with special guest Wynne Evans, Trinity Mirror host Carl Wood, left, and Scottish Power host Neil Clitheroe, right

Fundraisers who set up  an appeal to raise £250,000 to  pay for pioneering treatment  in America for a two-year-old  cancer sufferer have been declared the overall 2013 Team  of the Year at the Your Champions awards ceremony.

Anya Bentham, of Waverton,  Chester is still being treated  at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool for an advanced form of an aggressive  cancer called neuroblastoma.

The Anya Bentham Appeal,  which aims to raise the cash  needed to pay for treatment  in America, treatment which  is not available on the NHS,  was set up in December last  year and has already raised a  staggering amount. with  cash still pouring in on a  daily basis.

Fundraisers have tackled a  whole range of challenges  from boxing nights to  sponsored walks and supermarket bag packs to shark  dives at the Blue Planet  Aquarium to help keep the  cash steadily rolling in – but  still need £40,000.

Anya, mum and dad, Naomi Stanley and Graham  Bentham, formerly of Flintshire, recently had the news  they’d hoped for that Anya’s  treatment at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital had been successful and their precious  daughter was now cancer  free. But the chances of a  relapse in children who suffer neuroblastoma are exceptionally high. And despite the  all-clear Anya remains  gravely ill with her immune  system particularly low.

Sporting Champion of the Year -  Paul Lund

Paul Lund from Runcorn, with the award, and Trinity Mirror host Carl Wood, left, special guest Wynne Evans and Scottish Power host Neil Clitheroe, right
Paul Lund from Runcorn, with the award, and Trinity Mirror host Carl Wood, left, special guest Wynne Evans and Scottish Power host Neil Clitheroe, right

A Thai kickboxing guru and expert  martial arts coach from Widnes – who  always puts others before himself in  his determination to help people reach  their goals – has been declared the 2013  Iverall Sporting Champion at the Your  Champions awards.

Paul Lund has a proven track record  of helping people with issues such as  lack of self confidence and weight  problems, gain self esteem to change  their life for the better through this  martial arts training.

As well as life coaching people of all  ages he specialises in passing ‘bully  busting’ skills onto children aged  four-14, transforming the lives of  youngsters who previously lacked the  ability to stand up for themselves.

His wife Kirsty, herself formerly women’s UK kickboxing champion, said  the feedback from parents is ‘phenomenal’.

Paul, who also fundraises for causes  such as Alzheimer’s and the Anya  Bentham Appeal,  has produced five  UK champions in the sport of Muay  Thai through his specialist coaching.

One parent said of Paul’s coaching  skills: “I am grateful to Paul who has  developed my son’s confidence among  friends and peers.  “This has been  invaluable to him as, prior to commencing Muay Thai, he  felt vulnerable and intimidated by other teenagers.

“He has been inspirational in motivating my son, who has improved  respect for himself and others, as well  as greater motivation to achieve academically, and is now more confident  and able to communicate with other  adults within the community.

A female Muay Thai student said:  “Paul’s positive influence is an inspiration, not just for myself, but for all  his students.”

Another, aged 34, said in his Your  Champions nomination: “It is rare to  see someone as talented as Paul, as  humble and respectful to those they  teach, and this is a trait that he instils  in those around him.”

Joint overall Young Person of the Year: Tyler-Jay Faulkner and Georgia Gibbons

Georgia Gibbons from the Wirral and Tyler-Jay Faulkner from Ellesmere Port with special guest, opera singer Wynne Evans, left, Scottish Power host Neil Clitheroe, centre, and Trinity Mirror host Carl Wood
Georgia Gibbons from the Wirral and Tyler-Jay Faulkner from Ellesmere Port with special guest, opera singer Wynne Evans, left, Scottish Power host Neil Clitheroe, centre, and Trinity Mirror host Carl Wood
 

The quick-thinking actions  of a six-year-old boy saved his  mum’s life when her heart  stopped, causing her to fall  down the stairs.

Tyler-Jay Faulkner of Ellesmere Port immediately called his father when his  mum Annemarie Marsden suddenly fell ill at home on the evening of Monday, October 7. Tyler-Jay was told by his dad  Tommy Faulkner to phone 999  and slapped Annemarie’s face to  get her to come round.

Tommy said: “The doctors said  they think her heart stopped beating and that if he hadn’t managed  to wake her, she wouldn’t have  survived, so he really did save her  life.

“He’s very smart but really, he’s  just a normal little boy. You never  really expect a young person to be  able to do something like that and  stay so calm. He was chatting  away to the paramedic when I  arrived.”

Annemarie was taken to the  Countess of Chester Hospital  where she was diagnosed with  hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, a  genetic condition where the wall  of the heart muscle becomes  thickened, making it harder to  pump blood around the body.

On Wednesday, October, 9, she  was transferred to the Liverpool  Heart and Chest Hospital where  she underwent surgery to have an  Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator (ICD) fitted.

The ICD is a small device which  regulates abnormal heart  rhythms by giving the heart electric shocks.

Annemarie had been suffering  from heart palpitations and dizzy  spells on and off for six weeks  before the episode. She was discharged from hospital on Thursday, October 10, and  is recovering at home. She has been advised to avoid  any strenuous activity so Tommy has  moved in to help her with  Tyler-Jay and their  eight-month-old baby boy  Bobby-Ray.

Tommy said he and Annemarie  were ‘made up’ with the treatment she received at both hospitals: “I was very impressed, especially by how fast she was transferred to Liverpool. We were only  there for half an hour before she  was prepped for the procedure.”

Tyler-Jay, who only celebrated  his sixth birthday on October 1,  returned to William Stockton  Community Primary School the  next day.

Tommy said: “He’s fine now, he’s  enjoying all the praise from everyone.”JOINT OVERALL

Georgia Gibbons

For the first time ever, there was a tie in the Young Person category which was also won by 12-year-old Georgia Gibbons of Wirral who was nominated by her mother Michelle Dowling.

Michelle said: “Georgia was just six when she was diagnosed with Nemaline Myopathy, a rare type of muscular dystrophy.

“Her condition causes her to struggle with many things on a daily basis and it is progressive so her condition will worsen.

“Despite this she never complains or feels sorry for herself and has been fundraising for the past four years.

“She has taken part in four 15-mile walks and completes as much as she is physically able before being pushed the rest of the way in her wheelchair.

“She also takes part in bucket collections and helped out a charity tombola stall and also cycled four miles on her adapted trike.

“She has raised more than £1,500 for two charities close to her heart, the Muscular Dystrophy Campaign and the Clatterbridge Cancer Charity.

“She has even donated £100 of her own money. She is an amazing, inspirational girl and I couldn't be prouder of her.”

Overall Champion Person of the Year - Angie Churchill

Angie Churchill from the Wirral, with her award, Scottish Power host Neil Clitheroe, left, special guest Wynne Evans and Trinity Mirror host Carl Wood, right
Angie Churchill from the Wirral, with her award, Scottish Power host Neil Clitheroe, left, special guest Wynne Evans and Trinity Mirror host Carl Wood, right
 

A mum who wanted her daughter’s legacy to be an arts hub for young people has achieved her goal which has led to her being declared the Overall Champion Person of the Year at the Your Champions 2013 awards.

Angie Churchill from Wallasey lost her daughter Charlotte in April last year when the car she was a passenger in hit a tree.

Since then the 19-year-old’s mum with the help family, friends and the community has fundraised to create a centre where young people can meet and take part in creative activities.

Now the premises of Charlotte’s Brightside CLC centre have finally been found and the work now begins to bring it up to standard so it can take in youngsters aged eight to 16.

Angie, who got the keys for the new building just a week before Charlotte would have celebrated her 21st birthday on October 20 is thrilled.

She said: “I want this to be a centre of excellence for the young people of our community to give something back. Quite often young people get a bad press and you don’t hear about the good things that they do but they’ve been so supportive to our family since Charlotte died.”

Angie said she also wanted to create somewhere where people could experience things like drama and arts and new experiences. There are plans to create a recording studio in the premises which are on Molyneux Drive in New Brighton.

Charlotte’s charity Charlotte Brightside CLC has already raised in the region of £25K through two CharlotteFest music festivals, sportsmans’ dinners and other fundraisers but will need to keep raising money to pay for running costs, bills, and all the equipment the new centre wants to house.

Angie added: “This is what we wanted, her legacy. Charlotte wouldn’t have believe what we’ve achieved. It makes me proud of her all over again.”