An Ellesmere Port community hero who has already been presented with a British Citizen Award this year has been nominated for the Person of the Year category in the 2017 Your Champions awards.

The annual Your Champions search for the unsung heroes and heroines of our community reaches its 30th year in 2017.

Every year for the past three decades, Trinity Mirror Cheshire has teamed up with ScottishPower Foundation to throw the spotlight on those people and groups who go above and beyond to make their communities a better place to live.

Paul Holding of Ellesmere Port is just the kind of person the awards scheme was set up to recognise having dedicated more than three decades to running an inclusive Aikido club.

Paul, aged 61, established the EPIC Aikido Club in Ellesmere Port in 1983 and has run it on a non profit basis ever since.

Through the club he has guided and supported countless children and adults regardless of their race, religion, age and ability even developing a class especially dedicated those with learning difficulties, both physical and neurological.

TV presenter Michael Underwood, Anthony Paul Holding and Specsavers founder and BCA patron Dame Mary Perkins

A 5th Dan, Paul has been practicing the sport for more than 47 years and some of his students have gone on to compete at a national level and also join the GB British team.

Monthly club proceeds collected from membership fees go into paying for the room hire and at times Paul has covered the shortfall personally.

He has not increased the club fees for many years to ensure people can afford to attend and has made concessions for those who have found it difficult to meet the fees to ensure they could still take part.

People who join the club remain friends for life, regardless of whether or not they currently train at the club, thanks to Paul’s nature. He has gone out of his way on several occasions for club members giving driving lessons and helping them study towards exams.

Paul’s passion for the sport also saw him and his club members help coach at another Aikido club in Whiston near St Helens. He is also heavily involved in the British Aikido Association where he has been awarded a ‘Fellowship’ for his dedication to the sport.

Sadly Paul, who works for Wirral Council, was seriously ill last year and almost lost his life several times. He suffered two heart attacks and went on to have a stroke during a heart operation which left him with limited movement in his left arm and leg.

He then had to have more major surgery a few days before Christmas Day to have his bowel removed after having internal bleeding.

But his determination to get back to the club that he loves drove his recovery to the point that not only can he walk again but he is back teaching at the club.

His incredible efforts led to him being presented with a British Citizen Award, a scheme set up to recognise exceptional individuals who work tirelessly and selflessly to make a positive impact on society.

Paul was one of 30 medallists who were honoured at a prestigious ceremony on July 6, at the Palace of Westminster. His Medal of Honour was inscribed with the words ‘For the Good of the Country’.

Regarding his many years of community service, Paul said: “ I don’t do what I do for recognition, it’s really not me, but I do it because it’s a pleasure.

“Getting back to teaching has been a bit difficult after my ill health but I’m starting to find a way to do it carefully.”

Paul Holding, 60, from Ellesmere Port with his daughter, Emma Tomlinson, on her wedding day
Paul Holding, from Ellesmere Port with his daughter, Emma Tomlinson, on her wedding day

His daughter, Emma Tomlinson, said: “My dad’s dedication, even when critically ill in his hospital bed, is unprecedented. Even when he was in a very bad state, his first thoughts were for others, making sure they were all ok.

“He is unaware of the effect his generous nature has on others. His inspirational character has encouraged others to grow to their confidence and achieve goals they never thought possible.

“He is a true inspiration and a real shining star in the community.”

Later this year, a panel of judges from Trinity Mirror and ScottishPower will come up with shortlists for all five categories in the 2017 Your Champions awatds scheme - Person, Young Person, Team, Volunteer and Sporting.

All finalists will be invited to a glittering gala, red carpet event at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Chester on Friday, November 17 with Olympic silver and medallist Colin Jackson CBE on hand to present awards to this year’s successful champions who will be announced on the night.