CARING pensioners looking after ‘oldies’ decades younger than themselves, young sporting stars hoping to compete at the Olympics in Rio, friendly neighbours and superb shop assistants.
They were all present at last Thursday’s awe-inspiring Pride in Milton Keynes Awards, The Citizen event, in its seventh year, aims to honour the city’s unsung heroes.
Staged at The Doubletree Hotel at stadium:mk, Pride in Milton Keynes is this newspaper’s chance to celebrate the huge number of special people and groups who have gone out of their way to make their community a better place.
Among the heart-warming stories told throughout the night was that of the Brooklands Golden Girls. Joan Rose, Rose Martin and Connie Reeves, aged 88, 95 and 85 respectively, work at the Milton Keynes Centre for the Elderly, where they cook and look after pensioners who are often decades younger than them.
The ‘girls’ described it as the ‘best night of their lives’.
Rose said: “It’s marvellous, absolutely wonderful.
“The award is on behalf of all of us at Brooklands, not just for us three but all of our helpers.”
Later there were fantastic scenes as the proud family of two-year-old heart transplant tot Charleigh Thomson celebrated her win in the Bravery Award category. Born with three major heart defects, little Charleigh, from Fishermead, was given only days to live last Christmas. But her loving family are now hoping she will be out of intensive care and back with them for this year’s festivities.
She was saved by a £100,000 Berlin heart which artificially pumped blood around her body and stayed with her for 255 days. A ten-hour heart transplant operation followed, but doctors are hopefull she may be back with her family by the end of November.
Olympic gold medal hero Greg Rutherford even popped into The Pride Awards to share the news with her delighted family.
“This is an absolutely fantastic event. I was very, very lucky to be able to give young Charlie Thompson a fantastic prize,” he said.
“The girl has had a new heart and she’s come out the back of it fit and well which is hugely important.”
And there was an amazing coincidence in the People’s Choice Award, where young netball coach Georgia Dunn was victorious. Two years ago, Georgia’s mum Jayne had won the same award.
Jayne, who picked up the Service with a Smile award on behalf of MK Netters, said: “We teach netball skills to young ladies from the age of six all the way through to 16, and guide them into regional, county and England squads.
“Two years ago I won an award here, the People’s Choice Award, so it’s quite an honour for my club to be winning now.”
And speaking after picking up her gong, Georgia added: “I can’t believe I’ve won and the people of Milton Keynes have voted for me.
“I remember mum coming home and saying, ‘I didn’t get the award I was going for, but I did win the People’s Choice Award’.
“She was very happy with it and I think she’s proud now as well.”
Elsewhere, Georgina Titchmarsh took the Young Achiever award and Sophie Jackson captured the Excellence in Education prize. Both girls work at Milton Keynes Christian Foundation.
A spokesman for the Foundation said: “It wouldn’t be anything without the young people who work really hard to make something positive out of their lives, to get a foot on the ladder.
“I’m so proud of these two, I can’t even tell you.”
Speaking at the ceremony, Milton Keynes Citizen commercial director Sam Pirani said: “Tonight is about the special people in our community; those who go out of their way for others, those who have overcome great difficulties in their lives and those that care for the community and its environment as a whole.”
Pride in Milton Keynes 2012 was backed by two main sponsors, Stanair and Costa.
Stainair general manager Wayne Thompson and Costa retail development manager Danny Hilliam spoke of their pride at being associated with the event.
A number of other leading businesses also acted as category sponsors; namely Ikea, thecentre:mk, Marshall Amplification, Safer MK, The University of Bedfordshire, London Luton Airport and Anita Devi.
Anita was actually a winner at last year’s Pride Awards in the Excellence in Education award and wanted to give back to the community through this year’s event.
Awards host Nitin Ganatra, best known for his role as postman Masood Ahmed in BBC soap EastEnders, kept the audience entertained throughout the evening.
On the night, Nitin said: “I personally want to congratulate all the finalists, you are all winners even if you are not a winner on stage, you should still be proud of your achievements, I am and I know everyone involved is.”