Your Heroes Awards 2023
TV stars, sporting champions and Oscar-winners helped celebrate unsung individuals and groups who have transformed people’s lives across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire.
A former England footballer, the CEO of YMCA North Staffordshire and the Dougie Mac Hospice were also recognised at the Your Heroes awards ceremony, which was organised by Staffordshire University and sponsored by Stoke-on-Trent City Council.
The likes of actress Rachel Shenton, Paralympian Sir Lee Pearson CBE, British Middleweight boxing champion Nathan Heaney and Regent Theatre panto star Jonny Wilkes presented prizes at Festival Park’s DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel.
The awards ceremony was the culmination of a six-month campaign during which groups and individuals were nominated by people within their own community.
Following a black-tie dinner, 29 awards were handed out in categories including Hero of the NHS, Child of Courage, Carer of the Year and Uniformed Hero.
An audience of more than 270 people heard stories of unconditional love, daily struggles, selflessness and determination.
The evening was hosted by the awards’ founder, Martin Tideswell, Director of Communities and Commercial Engagement at Staffordshire University.
Martin said: “We are unashamedly local and proud as we celebrate the unsung heroes from across our communities. Young and old… individuals and groups… the courageous and the selfless. The very best of us.”
The first award, which was presented by the Oscar-winning actress Rachel Shenton, saw three children named joint winners of the Child of Courage accolade. Summer Walker, who had four brain operations in the space of three weeks, Alfie Donnelly, who has multiple heart conditions, and Henri Brammer who has raised £20,000 for the hospital that saved his life, all had their moment in the spotlight.
Every Your Heroes winner received a bespoke trophy designed and created by Newcastle-under-Lyme-based engineering firm KMF Group. Child winners also received Staffordshire University goodie bags plus prizes including tickets for the Regent Theatre panto, Alton Towers tickets, Port Vale and Stoke match tickets and afternoon tea or a pottery making experience at World of Wedgwood.
Paralympian Sir Lee Pearson CBE (pictured) handed over the prizes in the Future Star category, designed to recognise young people aged 21 or under who have shown progression and growth in the last 12 months with the potential to achieve greatness in the future. Powerchair footballer Dylan Kelsall, 20, was named as the winner with highly commended prizes going to Brooke Farrall and Umar Abdul-Latif.
Foster carer Donna Ellerton was named Carer of the Year in recognition of her decades of fostering babies. Stage star Jonathan Wilkes also handed carer prizes to highly commended winners North Staffs Young Carers and Zara Toussaint and Leeanne Clay from bereavement charity Windmills.
Stoke City chairman Peter Coates presented the Community Group of the Year Prize to Fenton Church of Nazarene, which had been at risk of closure due to dwindling congregations but has become a hub of the community
Highly commended prizes went to Walk Talk Action CIC and Foster Carers Association.
Boxer Nathan ‘Hitman’ Heaney presented the NHS Hero Award to UHNM liver consultant Dr Alison Brind. Highly commended prizes went to Staffordshire University student Naser Rashid, who worked with a hospital trust to bring about a policy change, and Nichola Finney, for her work on a project to decrease health inequalities.
Lord Lieutenant Ian Dudson presented the Charity Champion or Volunteer prize to the family of Wendy Jones of FC Hanley, who sadly passed away in October. Highly commended prizes went to Michelle Craggs of PEGIS and Ashley Mellor of Staffordshire Choirs Association.
Maths teacher Nargis Baig, who couldn’t speak English when she moved to the UK from Afghanistan, won the Inspiration in Education prize which was presented by the Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, Councillor Majid Khan.
Highly commended prizes went to headteacher turned mental health worker Adam Parkes and Laura Davies of Stoke-on-Trent College.
Olympian Jazmin Sawyers presented the Uniformed Hero award to PC Adele Thompson and PC Hollie Morris in recognition of their remarkable bravery in the line of duty after being attached while attending a domestic violence incident. Long-serving fire officer John Berrisford and the BikerDown Staffordshire project were highly commended.
Stoke City manager Alex Neil and players Wouter Burger and Daniel Johnson presented a Sporting Icon award to veteran broadcaster Nigel Johnson. A highly commended prize went to Stoke City grounds manager Andy Jackson.
Kerry Davis, the first dual heritage woman to play international football for England, was inducted into the Stoke-on-Trent Sporting Hall of Fame, with the presentation made by Port Vale manager Andy Crosby and captain Nathan Smith. Kerry also received a video message from Sarina Weigman CBE, manager of the European Cup-winning England Women’s football team.
Councillor Sarah Hill, Stoke-on-Trent City Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services presented a Civic Pride Award to Danny Flynn, the CEO of YMCA North Staffs.
Professor Martin Jones, the Vice-Chancellor and CEO of Staffordshire University, took to the stage to present the final award of the evening – a Civic Pride award for the Douglas Macmillan Hospice.
Professor Jones said: “Staffordshire University has been a longtime supporter of the inspirational Your Heroes Awards, so I am delighted that the University is now organising this celebration, sponsored by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, which honours some of the outstanding people living, working and studying in our communities.
“As a Civic University committed to improving the quality of life of people living within the county and the wider region, we hope to engage with the winners and see how we can help them on their personal journey, or work with them to bring about continued improvements for our communities.”
The evening’s musical entertainment was courtesy of Jonny Wilkes, who will star in the Regent Theatre panto once again this year.
The organisers of Your Heroes would like to thank the following companies for their contributions: The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, KMF Group, Netbiz, The Regent Theatre, Alton Towers and World of Wedgwood. Thanks must also go to the evening’s sponsors, Stoke-on-Trent City Council.