Olympic and Commonwealth Games medallist Sharron Davies brought a touch of glamour and sporting success to the 2015 Trinity Mirror-ScottishPower Your Champions awards gala night ceremony.
The legendary swimmer had the honour of handing out the awards to the overall champions at the long-running community initiative which recognises the extraordinary efforts of unsung heroes, heroines and organisations in the area and is now in its 28th year.
She said: “It is an honour to be here tonight and hear some of the amazing stories. You are all glass half full people, local heroes who really make a difference to the community.”
Overall champions were declared in the categories of Person, Young Person, Sporting, Volunteer and Team.
They were chosen from local winners in each of those categories from Chester, Ellesmere Port, South Cheshire, Flintshire, Runcorn and Widnes, Wiral and Wrexham.
Champion of Champions
The final award of the night, the Champion of Champions - chosen from the winner which had most impressed the judges from this year’s nominations - went to the Pover family from Chester.
There ceremony took place on Friday night at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Chester and was attended by representatives from Trinity Mirror and ScottishPower Foundation, as well as civic leaders from all the areas covered by the awards.
Alastair Machray, editor-in-chief Trinity Mirror North West-North Wales, paid tribute to the local heroes across the region who made a world of difference.
He said: “We are delighted to be supporting this truly fantastic community initiative. We are always privileged to play our part in getting the news out into the community of the great things being done.
"There are some remarkable people out there and they are here with us tonight to rightly get the recognition they deserve. Congratulations to everyone who has been nominated.”
Neil Clitheroe, CEO of retail and generation at ScottishPower, added: “I have been delighted to attend this event for the last four years. Every year I am humbled by the courageous and selfless acts from across our communities. Tonight is about honouring inspiring people you will hear their stories. Congratulations to everyone who is here.”
The roster of winners announced on the night were as follows:
CHAMPION OF CHAMPIONS: The Pover Family from Chester
A family that has raised almost £15,000 towards setting up a university scholarship in memory of their much-missed son were declared the Champions of Champions at the 2015 Your Champions ceremony.
Richard Pover was just 21 when he lost his battle with testicular cancer in June 2013.
He had been in the third year of a four year MEng degree course in mechanical engineering at the University of Sheffield when he was diagnosed.
Despite high doses of chemotherapy, the cancer spread to his lungs and eventually his spine, which left him wheelchair dependent.
He then contracted an infection which weakened him until finally his body could fight no more.
The university awarded Richard a first class degree posthumously.
Richard’s love for his adopted city and his course inspired his family, who live in Tarporley, to create a lasting memorial to him which will also help others.
The Richard Pover Outstanding Contribution Award will be a permanent endowment, open to all students within the University of Sheffield’s Department of Mechanical Engineering who have excelled in their extracurricular activities and made an outstanding contribution, just as Richard did.
Richard’s mum Anne said: “Richard loved Sheffield, his course, the university and his friends. For this reason he kept his treatment in Sheffield, where his friends and university life undoubtedly helped him to maintain his astonishingly positive outlook and determination to carry on as normal.
“This would be an annual award to help the next generation of Sheffield engineers.
“The idea of an everlasting award in Richard’s memory gives us some comfort as we learn to accept the desperately sad loss of our wonderful, courageous and inspirational son.
“It’s a way to ensure that Richard is remembered but also it’s lovely that our friends are taking part in this tribute and that we want to reach anyone who’s had contact with Richard throughout his life and also the rest of us because it’s important to us all.”
OVERALL PERSON OF THE YEAR: Jemma Gregory from Chester
A Newton woman whose experiences as the parent of a little girl suffering from a lifelimiting condition inspired her to found a charity was declared the Ovrall Person of the Year.
Mum of three Jemma Gregory came up with the idea for Space when her youngest daughter Isabelle, who has mitochondrial disease, was just six months old.
Mitochondrial disease causes debilitating physical, developmental and cognitive disabilities and brings about symptoms such as poor growth, muscle weakness and pain, seizures, learning disabilities and organ failure.
Born at 35 weeks, doctors expected Isabelle only had weeks to live and would never be able to breathe by herself.
But Isabelle, who Jemma calls their ‘little miracle’, defied the odds and started attending a special needs school in January.
Space provides specialist dropin play sessions in the Chester area for children with additional needs.
Jemma said: “Being a parent of a child with special needs is a very lonely place to be.
“I found there was very little support. I didn’t want this to be the case for others in the same situation and realised there was so much support to be gained from other parents.
“Our Space sessions are giving parents that opportunity whilst also giving children with special needs a fun, safe, accessible environment to play in.”
More than 70 children attend the stay and play sessions, and a preschool group will be launched in the coming months along with regular parent coffee mornings.
Jemma’s dedication is such that she was picked as the local hero to open the B&M store on Chester Retail Park in May.
Her friend Claire Edge, who nominated her for the honour, described Jemma as the ‘backbone’ of Space.
Jemma said: “I feel truly honoured. I have been fortunate enough to have a fantastic team to help me launch Space. “Our long term aim is a multisensory play centre.”
OVERALL SPORTING CHAMPION: Nicoll Moss from Wrexham
Nicoll Moss from Caergwrle, a 43-year-old PE learning manager/teacher at John Summers High School in Queensferry, was declared the Overall Sporting Champion for 2015.
In summer 2012, Nicoll was enjoying a summer on Anglesey, sailing, jet skiing, rib riding and more. She had taken part in an offshore sailing race with a friend and brought home a first prize trophy and went on to take part in the Menai straights race and the Puffin Island race.
But in September 2012, Nicoll’s world fell apart when she found out she had breast cancer. She had found a cyst, a usual occurrence for her, having had four removed in the past. But she was informed she needed radiotherapy and lymph node removal.
She had the treatment and while waiting for her biopsy results, Nicoll spent time completing an Active Mark Cymru nomination for her school - one of only 30 schools across Wales that had demonstrated commitment to developing high quality physical education, school sport and promoting benefits of physical activity.
Then she received the news that her cancer had spread and it was necessary to have another operation and more chemotherapy.
She said: “One day I lay in the bath surrounded by hair. I cried. Time to book an appointment with the hairdressers, to have my head shaved.”
Nicoll is now, thankfully, in remission.
Awyr Las, who nominated her, said: “We have personally witnessed and heard about Nicoll’s fighting spirit to always want to exceed and inspire and encourage others to do so around her. We feel Nicoll has been an inspiration to her students, school , loved ones and friends and deserves to be recognised.”
OVERALL TEAM OF THE YEAR: Halton Lions from Runcorn and Widnes
A confidence building football club for young people of different abilities in Halton won the Overall Team of the Year Award for 2015.
Edel Fox, secretary of Halton Lions Junior Football Club, said: “Our son was nine when he was diagnosed with epilepsy. He was playing for a local football team. When we informed the manager of his diagnosis he stopped playing him for matches as he feared he could be injured. His self confidence took a hit and he no longer wanted to play for the team, although he still loved football.
“We decided to set up a team for him so he could and enjoy the game. We soon found that there were many local children who for various reasons and abilities were not given the opportunity to join teams. We changed that.
“We formed a team and they played regardless of their ability. They were beaten every game but it didn’t matter. They celebrated own goals and continued to attract players who desperately wanted to play football.
“When they were under 12s they started secondary school and were jeered for playing for ‘Lions Losers’. We remained in the Halton League and slowly at the age of 14 they started to score in the other goal. We started to draw, then a miracle happened and we won.
“They joined the Warrington Junior District league and throughout the summer break they trained like machines. They were placed in the bottom league and when the season finally started not only did they win every game, they won the league undefeated, this was a record for the Warrington league.
“The following season they once again won the league undefeated. Last season they progressed into the next division and finished mid table.
“We are extremely proud of them and their management team. They have been awarded funding from the Football Foundation to grow the game and are mentoring a new team to support them into the transition of secondary school and keeping a focus on keeping football in the community.”
OVERALL VOLUNTEER OF THE YEAR: SHARE (formerly known as North Wales Refugee and Homeless Centre) from Flintshire
Thousands of kilos worth of clothing and bedding donated by kindhearted people across North Wales has been sent to help refugees in Greece by a group which has been declared the Overall Volunteers of the Year for 2015.
Volunteers spent hours sorting through donated supplies at the newly opened North Wales Refugee and Homeless Aid Centre on the Castle Park Industrial Estate in Flint.
Supporters at the 4,000sq ft centre ended up waving off a lorry loaded with 6,000kg of supplies for refugees on the island of Leros with even more items in the warehouse waiting to be packed.
The facility, which has been provided by Flintshire County Council for free, is being run by Adam Dandy, Louise Edwards, Monica Hogg, Kim Neige Guillot and Sarah Salmon.
They have been taking in items collected by groups from across North Wales and Cheshire including Supporting Refugees South Denbighshire, North Wales Refugee Support, Meirionnydd/Dwyfor – Refugee Solidarity, Conwy Supporting Refugees and AngleseyCalais People Solidarity.
Adam Dandy, who runs Dandy’s Topsoil on Sealand Road, Sealand in Flintshire, said: “We have been absolutely inundated with donations at Dandy’s and within two weeks we had filled a huge container and had to start turning people away.
“That’s when we got in touch with Supporting Refugees Flintshire and had a meeting with Aaron Shotton and Bernie Attridge at Flintshire council and they offered us this warehouse. Their support has been amazing.”
Louise, who lives in Treuddyn and is one of the four founding members of Supporting Refugees Flintshire, said the support from the community has been “fantastic”.
She said: “None of us have done anything like this before but the support we have had from the community has been fantastic – we’ve had people turn up from as far away as Anglesey, Blanaeu Ffestiniog and Towyn.”
OVERALL YOUNG PERSON OF THE YEAR: Harvey Hughes-Sharps from Chester
A five-year-old boy from Guilden Sutton has been doing chores to raise funds for the hospice that looked after his mum and has been rewarded by winning the Overall Young Person of the Year title.
Harvey Hughes-Sharps sent the Hospice of the Good Shepherd a letter earlier this year with a hand painted jar full of coins. It read: “I have been doing chores to raise money for the hospice to say thank you for looking after my mummy, I miss her very much.”
Harvey’s mum Rachel sadly lost her battle with cancer in December 2013.
Harvey’s dad Jonathan said: “Rachel was a very bright and determined person that took control of her situation, which if you know the medical profession, especially specialists, was a feat in itself.
“She was determined to make her last days with Harvey as normal as possible, and even on the day she collapsed with her first brain tumour, she was up and out with Harvey and myself at Ness Gardens.
“She defied the odds to not just survive to see her goal and see Harvey start school, but do it with strength and dignity.”
Harvey took part in the Hospice of the Good Shepherd 5k Colour Fun Run in July in memory of his mum. The event, also known as the Happiest 5k on the Planet, dparticipants being doused from head to toe in different colours along the route.
Harvey has not only raised cash for the hospice.
With his best friend Aman Rayet he raised more than £100 for Save the Children by building a den.
The duo created the shelter out of reclaimed wood and a recycled builder’s bag in the back garden to help pay to provide a safe refuge for children with no place to call home.