THE 22nd annual ScottishPower/Trinity Mirror Your Champions Awards toasted heroes from across the region on Friday.
Community champions gathered for the red carpet treatment at The Crowne Plaza Hotel as glowing tributes were paid to those unsung and selfless community stalwarts who have given so much to our region.
Young and old heroes from towns, villages, schools and community organisations mingled with local celebrities, MPs, civic dignitaries and representatives from ScottishPower and Trinity Mirror Cheshire
This year has been particularly memorable, a year blighted by recession put financial and social strains upon our communities.
Amid the economic gloom the champions from across our circulation area have yet again shone through by reminding everyone that so often the most important things in life are free.
Once again, guests of the popular event learned of the acts of bravery and courage from those who had triumphed over adversity.
Carl Wood, Trinity Mirror Cheshire publishing director, hailed it as his favourite event of the year and reminded guests that a champion, by definition is "An ardent defender or supporter of a cause or another person."
Carl Wood added: "We are very proud to be associated with and support this fantastic initiative.
"It would not be possible without the champions and tonight we are celebrating the achievements of some very special people."
ScottishPower has been proud co-sponsors of the award for 22 years which has paid tribute to some extraordinary and unique characters.
Raymond Jack, managing director of energy retail for ScottishPower, explained: "We are genuinely proud to be associated with this event.
He added: "The event shines on the vast amount of charitable work being done in the area and the people that make a real difference in the community."
Special guests of the evening included ITV presenter Trevor Green who compered and Snooker Champion and Strictly Come Dancing star Willie Thorne.
The snooker star said: "The world today is a very strange place, which is why I am so honoured to be here.
He added: "It’s great to be talking about and listening to champions and learn about how they have."
The 2009 Champion Person was Alison Dixon from South Cheshire. She has dedicated her life to warning young people about the dangers of alochol abuse following the tragic death of her son, aged 26 because of a drink problem.
Champion Team was Comfort Parcels for Troops from Halton. This group sends packages of essential items to troops on the Afghan front line and is the only MOD approved parcel scheme in the UK. Jim Ross and his associates set up the scheme 15 months ago when it was realised that many troops with no family back home to send them messages and gifts can become demoralised.
It was a golden night for Ellesmere Port and Neston Special Olympics team who received the ultimate accolade by scooping Regional Winner in the Sporting Category. More than 17 athletes triumphed at the Great Britain National Summer Games in Leicester earlier this year. The team represented the North West region at the Games
Champion school was Wallasey School who put together a 4x4 challenge team (including pupils, parents, governors) and completed a 4x4 challenge in Easter and raised over £17,000 for Claire House. They walked across England (87 miles), canoed in Scotland (74 miles), cycled across Wales (168 miles) and ran across Ireland (133 miles).
Shaun Edwards from Wrexham was crowned the Champion Young Person of the Year. This 18-year-old is studying to be a youth worker at Yale College and has spent the last five years fundraising, despite having cerebral palsy. He is an ambassador for the Lions Club, edits their newsletter and set up a computer club for young people, in addition to many other activities.
Carol Highton from Runcorn was declared overall Champion of Champions.
Mother of Brian Shields, victim of the Loan shark Paul Nicholson who committed suicide because of his debt has set up the Brian Shields Trust to warn people about the dangers of turning to loan sharks.
Her campaign is very high profile and she has won a special award from Trading Standards.
Here is Carol's story: