Your Champions 2014 category winners from Chester, Ellesmere Port, Flintshire, Runcorn and Widnes, South Cheshire, Wirral and Wrexham were all in the running the for title of Overall Champions when they attended the gala awards ceremony at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Chester on Friday night.
In this special report, we reveal who won the ultimate accolades in each section.
Overall Young Champions of the Year - Maisy Versey and Lexie Till
The judges of this year’s Your Champions awards found they had no choice but to honour two brave girls as the overall Young Cham,pions of the Year 2014.
Ten-year-olds Maisy Versey of Blacon and Lexie Till of Ellesmere Port donated bone marrow to save the lives of beloved siblings.
Maisy underwent the procedure to help her 19-year-old sister Jessica, who was diagnosed with the blood cancer acute myeloid leukaemia earlier this year.
When Jessica failed to respond to chemotherapy, a rare stem cell tranplant became her only chance of a cure and so in stepped Maisy - the only family member who was a match.
Jessica said her little sister had wanted to be the donor from ‘day one’.
“She always used to say how exciting it would be to be able to help me and when we found out, I was in hospital so I rang Maisy and told her the news. I honestly wish I could have recorded it, as she squealed down the phone and kept shouting and screaming with excitement,” she said.
“Then she started crying and my dad had to take the phone off her; it was a very special moment. Once she settled down she sent me a beautiful text saying how happy she was to be a match and how much she loved me.
“She’s honestly the most amazing girl I’ve ever met; her understanding of the situation and how she takes it in her stride is amazing - I couldn’t be more proud,” she added.
The girls’ mum Jane said: “My husband Dave and I are so proud of both Jess and Maisy - this is such a big thing for Maisy to do but she understands. We are incredibly proud.”
“I just wanted to help him,” said 10-year-old Lexie Till when she made a life changing donation of bone marrow to her poorly three-year-old brother.
Toddler Drew Till of Whitby, Ellesmere Port, has a rare genetic condition known as Diamond Blackfan Anaemia, a failure of the bone marrow.
The condition causes Drew’s body to produce few or no red blood cells and he has spent much of his life in and out of the Countess of Chester and Alder Hey hospitals for various medication and monthly blood transfusions.
When doctors told Mum Helen, 43 and Dad Andy, 45 that Drew would need a bone marrow transplant in order to live a healthy life they soon discovered that sister Lexie, a pupil at Woodlands Primary, was a perfect match.
She had no hesitation in volunteering to donate her bone marrow and in June was admitted to Manchester Children’s Hospital for five days of chemotherapy.
Ten days later Lexie underwent the surgery where doctors removed about 700ml of liquid bone marrow with Drew receiving it though a transfusion the next day.
Proud Helen said: ”Lexie bounced back from her surgery and was back in school three days later after a weekend at home. There were a few setbacks for Drew caused by his treatment but he battled through and has progressed really well.”
Lexie said: “Drew means everything to me, he’s really special and I just wanted to help him.”
Overall Champion Team of the Year - Flintshire Foodbank
A charity which has helped thousands of struggling residents across the county have been declared the Overal Champion Team of the Year at this year’s Your Champions awards.
Volunteers who run Flintshire Foodbank have been recognised for their phenomenal efforts providing emergency food parcels to people of all ages in Flintshire.
Since opening in May 2012 the charity has provided food to more than 7,000 people including more than 3,000 children – they have also collected more than 66,000kg of food over the last year which has been kindly donated by the public.
Users of the Foodbank are referred by professionals such as social workers or health visitors, they are then given enough food for three days to make healthy and nutritious meals with and where possible toiletries are supplied.
Project manager Sue Leake told The Chronicle earlier this year that more and more people in the county and nationwide are turning to the Foodbank for help as increasing numbers are struggling to make ends meet.
Speaking about the nomination, Sue said: “I am so pleased that the Foodbank and all its volunteers have been nominated.
“We very much work as a team and it is fantastic news to find out we have been nominated.”
Overall Champion Volunteer of the Year - Margaret Williams
A mum from Flint who founded one of North Wales’s biggest children’s charities is the Overall Champion Volunteer of the Year.
Margaret Williams set up North Wales Superkids in 1999 and was recognised on the Queen’s New Year Honour List this year for her dedication and was made an MBE.
Former social worker Margaret and her volunteers to bring a smile to the faces of deprived children by holding parties, giving away holidays and giving away toys at Christmas.
Speaking about setting up the charity, Margaret said: “Having worked for Denbighshire social services for many years, I was more than aware of the level of deprivation throughout the area.
“It is very easy to condemn people; after all we do have a welfare state and are certainly not a poor country.
“We do not see children ragged, shoeless and pot-bellied hanging around the streets, no our poverty is far better disguised. Whether we like to admit it or not there is provable poverty and malnutrition here on our own door step.”
In the early days she used an open garage and car port to house toys and fill bags of presents, working long hours right up to Christmas Eve – bringing magic to needy children. The charity has continued to grow over the last few years to meet the increasing demand for help and has gone from helping 150 children in its first year to giving 1,400 children Christmas presents in 2012.
The charity’s Caravan Project has also been giving families the chance for a much-needed break away in a special disability-adapted caravan.
In 2002, Superkids was presented with the Queen’s Golden Jubilee Award and in 2008 Margaret was awarded Citizen of the Year.
Overall Sporting Champion of the Year - Kieran Flynn
Kieran Flynn, from Wybunbury, has been declared the Overall Sporting Champion of the Year at the 2014 Your Champions awards for his indefatigable spirit and for his tireless efforts in pursuing a dream to compete in the Rio De Janiero Paralympics in 2016.
Kieran was left paralysed below the waist after a tackle against an opposition player went wrong while playing for Crewe and Nantwich RUFC last summer.
The pair’s combined momentum sent his legs flying into the air and he came crashing down on his head. He broke his neck in three places and damaged his spinal cord and will now most likely be confined to a wheelchair. But he now hopes to take part in disabled rugby on a professional level and is trying to raise £4,000 for a specially reinforced wheelchair.
A trust fund is in the process of being set up to help raise cash for the equipment. Kieran is training his upper body at Simply Gym in Crewe.
Overall Champion Person of the Year - Stuart Callendar
Stuart Callendar has been declared the Overall Champion Person of the Year for his tireless efforts for a range of good causes.
His name was put forward by Caroline McDonnell, who said: “Stuart works full time and spends most of his spare time volunteering for various charities.
“For about 30 years he has worked voluntarily for the British Red Cross as a trainer, covers public events which often supports events in Halton and helps with hospital transfers.
“Stuart often puts himself on call for the Red Cross Fire Emergency Service which supports people affected by fire eg providing clothing, boarding up of houses and accommoda-
“He also volunteers on call for the North West Ambulance Service as a community first responder.
“Often the first person on the scene of major medical emergencies, eg cardiac arrests, respiratory distress and much more. Stuart’s job is to maintain life until the ambulance arrives.
“As a street pastor, Stuart will often be found in the town centre on the last Saturday of every month from 11pm–4am providing help and support to vulnerable people particularly those outside clubs for alcohol-related incidents and homeless people, by providing food if needed.
“He is also a deacon at Farnworth Christian Fellowship church and is a sound engineer for all the services and events.”
Caroline added: “On a daily basis Stuart is putting his life on the line, helping someone else and making a real difference in our community.
“I would go as far as to say he is an unsung pillar of the Halton community.
“I have got no idea of where he finds the time being the father of three girls!”