The 2013 Trinity Mirror/ScottishPower Your Champions scheme comes to a glittering climax on Friday with the annual awards ceremony at the Crowne Plaza in Chester.
Taking pride of place at the event will be all of the Chester Chronicle title winners which we are delighted to highlight in today’s edition.
On Friday, each of these local winners will go up against their counterparts in the Ellesmere Port, Flintshire, South Cheshire, Wirral and Runcorn & Widnes areas, hoping to pick up the title of Overall Winners in their categories.
And on the night, we will also be revealing the Champion of Champions – the most outstanding winner across all categories of this year’s competition.
But whoever wins what on the night, everyone who is honoured at the ceremony is already deserving of the title Your Champion.
Young person of the year - Josh Dunn
A teenager with cerebral palsy who underwent a pioneering operation has been declared as the Chester Chronicle Young Champion of the Year.
Josh Dunn, from Endsleigh Close, Upton, was 18 when he became the first patient to have the procedure in the north of England in a coup for Liverpool’s Alder Hey Hospital.
The complex operation has reduced the ‘tightness’ in Josh’s muscles and, in combination with intensive physiotherapy, is helping him to bend his legs so that he can walk more normally rather than dragging his legs.
He is still using sticks but the dream is that he will one day cast them aside.
Mum Joan said: “He was like a new-born baby, starting again, but he’s doing really well walking on his sticks, but not as much as he should do!”
And despite his legs, arms and speech being affected by the condition, Josh is determined to fulfil his potential. As a student of West Cheshire College he has passed his IT, maths and English courses.
Josh drives an adapted car and is a professional wheelchair basketball and rugby league player.
Last summer Josh carried the Paralympic flame in a miner’s lamp through Ellesmere Port having collected it from London where he met David Cameron, Sebastian Coe and mayor Boris Johnson.
Since Josh’s procedure, a girl has undergone the same operation at Alder Hey with the hope she will benefit in the same way.
Volunteer of the year - Jo Sykes
JO SYKES, pictured, 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-handed, but it really couldn’t be done without her!”
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 Chester Chronicle Team of the Year.
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 – passing the £250,000 goal.
Anya, mum and dad, Naomi Stanley and Graham Bentham, 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 - Chester Romans
NOT every city can boast its own American Football team.
But Chester Romans have been putting the city on the map in this tough, physical sport and their achievements have been recognised with the title of Chester Chronicle Sporting Champion of the Year in this year’s Your Champions awards.
For the first time in nearly 14 years, the Chester Romans American Football team have reached the semi-finals of the British American Football Association National League.
Under new guidance this year from a new committee, the team worked tirelessly on and off the pitch to better themselves.
Having started the season as ‘outsiders’, they put up a tough fight going 9-1 in their regular season, beating teams who had been demoted from the premiership division last year, and clinching the National Central Division Champions title.
They also dedicated their annual charity match to MacMillan for Cancer Support, raising £450 for them.
The team has been nominated by Emma Ireland who said: “It's been an amazing year for the Romans and I think they deserve recognition.”
Champion person of the year - Hazell Gregory
HAZELL Gregory, who is head of housekeeping at The Wingate Centre in Wrenbury, has been declared the Chester Chronicle Champion Person of the Year in this year’s Your Champions awards.
Not only does she go the extra mile to make the lives of every single child that comes to stay at The Wingate Centre just that little bit more special, she still manages to find the time to support countless other groups, charities and schools in her local area.
She actively goes around the community to collect unwanted items and either sells them at car boot sales or fairs to raise money for local charities, or she passes on the goods to groups such as the Brownies at Great Barrow, Cancer Research in Chester, Tarvin Pre-School, Barnardos and the Seahorse Swimming Club for disabled children, to name but a few.
She then organises for all the remaining bits and pieces that are of no use to anyone to be collected by a local recycling firm.
All the money raised from this, which stands at more than £1,000 so far this year, is donated to The Wingate Centre to help enrich the lives of children and young adults with all levels of physical and learning disabilities.
Catherine Moore, who nominated Hazell, said: “Such a committed and unassuming person, who quietly goes around doing so much for local charities, really deserves recognition and to be awarded the title of Champion of the Year.”