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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.”