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 night’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.
After the event the ‘girls’ described it as the ‘best night of their lives’.
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.
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.
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.
“We never cease to be amazed by the many stories of hard work, commitment, dedication and bravery that occurs every year and this year is no different to any other.
“We hope to hear about more amazing stories in years to come so we can continue celebrating you all and giving you the public recognition that you most definitely deserve.”
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 associaated 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.
Twenty-five guests were even lucky enough to find £25 worth of Ikea vouchers under their chairs – a thank you from the Swedish furniture store which is celebrating 25 years in the UK.
Awards host Nitin Ganatra, best known for his role as postman Masood Ahmed in BBC soap EastEnders, kept the audience entertained throughout the evening.
He even re-created some of his popular dancing from his role as Prince Pondicherry in the Tim Burton film ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’.
Last night, Nitin said: “Tonight is about celebrating you, we want to shout out loud about our special folk.
“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.”
And Mr Pirani added: “It is so amazing to hear the many stories of good work on our doorstep and we have the opportunity to recognise and celebrate via our local newspaper the Citizen and tonight. A special thank you to the many nominators that put their time and thoughts into the nominations.”
The special night was about so much more than the winners, wonderful as they were, so here is a list of all the nominees and a brief description of what makes them so special. The winner in each category is listed first.
Care in the Community:
This award recognises individuals who have shown incredible patience and understanding, often for many years, caring and supporting a stranger in need, a friend or a loved one.
The Brooklands Golden Girls: Joan Rose, Rose Martin and Connie Keeves.
Fondly nicknamed the Brooklands Golden Girls, these lovely ladies have notched up an incredible 87 years of voluntary work between them serving the community at Milton Keynes Centre for the Elderly.
Joan is 88, Rose, 95, and Connie, 85. The amazing trio have spent most of their adult life helping their community. They spend all their spare time cooking full hearty meals using industrial catering equipment and serve to the people who visit the centre. They also take senior citizens on holiday and push their wheelchairs. The people who visit the centre or holiday are, in many cases, much younger than them. They have never asked for recognition, it’s what they love doing.
Grant has moved heaven and earth to keep the ‘can do:mk’ service afloat in the absence of Barbara Reeves due to a serious accident. The service is set up to help the socially isolated people in the community and without Grant’s dedication it may have folded.
Georgia plays for the MK Netters and has proven how much she cares for others by dedicating her time to younger players, coaching them and helping in encouraging a feeling of team spirit.
Rob is a warden for the Fishermead area, who supported resident Jane Holder through a traumatic ordeal when getting a threatening tenant to vacate her property, including attending court sessions and ensuring her safety and security were not compromised. Rob has even been nominated for a Pride of Great Britainaward.
Aged just 19, Michaela has gone beyond the norm for the love and welfare of her younger brother, Charlie. She has taken full custody and responsibility for Charlie who has behavioral problems.
Co-ordinator at the Open-Door charity, which provides a drop-in centre for the homeless, Jacqueline has helped so many people get back to some form of normal life including into a home, training and employment. She has done this at the expense of her own time and money.
MK Netters have collectively shown total dedication to the club. Volunteers, coaches, trainers and players support each other in every sense to promote team spirit.
A leading community ranger for the Parks Trust, Dawn goes beyond her normal call of duty. Engaging with people from all walks of life at anytime of the day or night, she breaks down communication barriers and helps make Milton Keynes a better place to live, work and play in.
Rachael works with a group of socially isolated individuals and has helped them gain the confidence to enter an inclusive society.
Ryan is a remarkable young man. He is one of the county’s ‘young carers’. At just 15 and leading a relatively normal life, he is the eyes for his blind parents and is also involved in a charity called ‘cogs4dogs’ to help other young carers get disabled family and friends out and about.
Service with a Smile:
This award recognises an individual or a team that goes the extra mile when it comes to customer service, those who make the community a friendlier place and deserve to be recognised for their good work and overall commitment.
This out of school netball club for girls provides a key service in the development of Year three and up students and going the extra mile to encourage the girls’ social and interaction skills, off the court as well as on.
Everyone from coach to player including the many volunteers have been determined to make it happen. Without this positive collaboration, the club would not exist and most certainly not achieved its many successes.
Assistant manager at Jones the Bootmaker, Toni was nominated for her excellent service in scouring the country for a specific pair of boots which were not in stock.
Manager at Quiz Clothing, Tammie, was nominated for offering excellent customer service when a customer was shopping for her wedding and bridesmaid dresses.
Sales advisor at the Early Learning Centre, Janet helped customer Chris, who needed several presents for her granddaughter. Although they were not all in stock, Janet went out of her way by making phone calls around the country and managed to secure them all.
Sarah Cook and Katie Daly.
Assistants at Cafe Rouge, the pair are described as warm, friendly and very attentive. Their excellent service added to the enjoyment and experience of customer David’s visit.
Sales advisor at Fraser Hart. James helped customer Laura select her engagement ring. He was very helpful and nothing was too much trouble.
Warden for Fishermead, Rob, is the person to call for any issues or problems relating to the area. Nothing is too much trouble. Even if he is overloaded with work, he will still go out of his way to get things done; like grass cutting needs, dog fouling and graffiti problems.
At just 14, Katie, is an excellent ambassador for Milton Keynes. A champion show jumper who does many voluntary things for the community, from visiting schools and homes for the elderly and engaging people in her beloved sport to handing out Olympic cookies to people in the comminity when it was her birthday.
Young Achiever Award:
Recognising some extraordinary dedication and hard work put in by young people. This is for a group or individual that has achieved great success in sport, school, volunteer work or achieved distinction in some other field.
Georgina has overcome many obstacles in her life and made some truly amazing improvements in her time at the Milton Keynes Christian Foundation, from improving her social skills and understanding her self worth to securing employment in the vocation of her choice. Georgina has overcome barriers to her learning by working on her self esteem and confidence which impacted on her social skills. She has been able to control her emotions, meet learning targets, secure a work placement, inspire others at the foundation and mentor them, despite being physically attacked by a gang of youths during her time at the Foundation. Rather than let this beat her, she continued to progress and meet her goals to such a level that she is a true young achiever in every sense.
Lewis was nominated for his many sporting achievements in discus, shot and hammer. He became the Under 15s shot champion in the UK for English schools and won bronze in discus at the Olympic Stadium at the UK schools games, becoming Young Achiever of the Year for Bucks Sports in the process.
Georgia has achieved so much as club coach for the MK Netters. Most nights of the week, she is either playing, training or coaching. Her dedication has resulted in many inter-school and inter-county netball competition wins.
Izzy is a remarkable young lady. She is the BMX national champion. Her achievements are outstanding and she inspires many children to get involved in her beloved sport by visiting schools and inspiring others to join in, thus promoting a healthy activity life style.
Sophie has achieved so much in such a short time. Despite having a difficult start in life, she has turned out to be one of the most inspirational young ladies at the Milton Keynes Christian Foundation. Working on the wheelright project, she has applied herself to achieve targets and successfully secured a placement at college.
Shane is truly amazing. In such a short time he has moved into the professional acting world, from appearing as the young Michael Jackson in Thriller Live, presenting on Sky TV’s children show Kix files to a role in the next Nativity 2 film out later this year. He also became the first winner of the first Amy Winehouse scholarship and will be attending the Sylvia Young Theatre School in London.
Friendly Neighbour of the Year:
As the song goes... everybody needs them and good neighbours can really transform lives.
At the young age of 72, Gill is the best neighbour ‘ever’. She always puts others first even though she has suffered poor health. If any neighbours in the area are having difficulties, Gill is always first on the scene to lend a hand. Nothing is too much trouble for this lady. Despite suffering two bouts of cancer, Gill looks after her neighbours’ grandchildren, cooks meals for her neighbours and families if they are unable to do so and provides food for the junior and senior MK Rugby Club. She puts everyone first and is the most reliable person in the neighbourhood.
Rachael is helping turn people’s lives around and because of her warm friendly way, her group also bring their friends to meet her for a chat which gives them a confidence boost.
Excellence in Education:
This award recognises anyone or any organisation involved in education; a school, pupil, teacher, teaching assistant or community group leader/worker in sports, music, drama.
First to admit she found it difficult to handle problems objectively and believed no-one would give her a chance, Sophie has progressed since working on the wheelright project at the MK Christian Foundation. She has been able to demonstrate a level of maturity and patience when interacting with other challenging individuals at the Foundation and has become a loyal thoughtful friend. She has a very bright future, but in no way does this detract from the very real obstacles she has needed to overcome and the determination and resilience she has shown in doing so.
Gaining champion status in shot and winning many medals in hammer and discus, Lewis trains at MK Marshalls Athletics Club and his dream is to participate in the next Olympics.
Georgia excels in netball as a club coach for MK Netters. She is described as a truly inspiring young netballer, an exceptional young lady who encourages and motivates young pupils to excel and a passionate youngster.
This netball club has won honours including Silver Cup accreditation in 2006, two girls playing for England squads, four in the the regional super leagues and success in reaching the under 19s regional finals.
Based at the Oxley Park Academy, Team Oxley believe education is a right and not a privilege. Their motto, taken from an African proverb, is ‘it takes a whole village to educate a child’. This is the culture bred into the school which involves everyone; pupils, teachers, parents, governors and the wider community.
Georgina has truly excelled in improving her life skills and deserves recognition for her hard work and determination.
The Parks Trust.
The Trust’s work with children and adults helps educate them about the environment – from fire and water safety issues to learning about the natural world. Over 5,000 children have attended activities such as ‘Bug Hunts’ and many of the activities are designed to support and enhance maths and literacy learning.
Making Milton Keynes Safer Award:
This award will be presented in recognition of the efforts of an individual or team who devote their spare time working within the community. This could be improving the community for a chosen cause, or someone who has tackled crime, disorder or anti social behavior.
Dawn was nominated for her work as a leading community ranger for the Parks Trust. Dawn is totally committed in making MK a safer place to live, work and play in. Her many roles include pro-actively addressing issues such as arson, advising people of the dangers and risks near the many waterways in the area, liaising with the Thames Valley Police while addressing anti-social behavior in the public parks, turning up at events in her own time and offering help and advice to the many visitors. She is tenacious and passionate about her work and truly supports the community to help keep it a safe place.
Rob has made the Fishermead area, known for drink and drug issues and other anti-social behavior issues such as graffiti, a safer and nicer place to live.
PC Andrew Perry.
PC Perry was recognised for his work in educating children in MK schools about anti-social behavior and how to prevent and deal with crime, from making presentations to sitting and drawing with children. Much of this work is done in his own time.
Fundraiser of the Year:
This category recognises the achievements in fundraising for others.
Young mum of two, Amanda was struck down by a terrible viral disease called ‘Group A Streptococci’ which attacks vital organs and she was given days to live. Her four-day-old daughter at the time also contracted a strain of this serious disease, but fortunately both survived. Amanda had to stay in intensive care for six weeks where she was advised her legs might be amputated. She fought back and came off dialysis and had to learn to walk again. A year on, she decided to raise money for the critical care unit at the MK Hospital by learning to skate and skated over 20 miles from Leighton Buzzard to Milton Keynes to raise money as a thank you for saving her and her daughter’s life.
The Tiny Bakery.
For supporting the Citizen’s charity of the year, Milton Keynes Food Bank, by donating a popular cob loaf to the charity for every one that is purchased. The Tiny Bakery got involved because they heard the charity was struggling to receive food donations during the summer holidays.
A charity set up to help bereaved families in Milton Keynes who have lost a child, Harry’s Rainbow was formed in October 2011 in memory of Harry, the Mould’s family’s son who unexpectedly died in 2009 at just five and half years old. The charity takes bereaved families on days out to help them cope with their loss.
The Unsung Hero/ine award:
This award recognises groups or individuals that go out of their way for others, from spreading good news to voluntary support.
Jacqueline showed great dedication to the Open Door project, even out of the expense of her own time and pocket. For most of this year, Jacqueline has tirelessly worked alone to keep the Open Door drop-in centre running. Not only has she gone the extra mile to care for her guests, she has truly made a difference to so many lives. Many volunteers at the centre were once guests themselves and admire her hard work and dedication. She started herself only three years ago as a volunteer and in this time has boosted the confidence of many guests and given them hope, this is in addition to sourcing homes, training and education for the many less fortunate in the MK region. A true unsung heroine.
Grant conducts tireless work in keeping the ‘can do:mk’ centre and project afloat even during a temporary change of office due to a refurbishment and for also assisting Barbara Reeves in getting help to the hospital after her serious accident.
Isabelle passes her passion for BMX racing to the schools across the county, inspiring and encouraging participation in a healthy activity.
Michaela cares for and took on full custody of her younger brother with behavioral issues at such a young age.
PC Andrew Perry.
PC Perry was nominated for his work in educating children about anti-social behavior and turning children’s drawings into books via an Apple Mac. He has helped so many people across Milton Keynes whether it be during work hours or in his own time.
This award pays tribute to an example of bravery. For an individual or group who have overcome adversity in their life or to have voluntarily prevented a negative situation from getting out of hand.
With an abundance of nominations, we felt this award can only go to one person.
Two-year-old Charleigh, from Fishermead, has captured the hearts of many – and at long last she now has a new heart of her own to help her live a normal life. Charleigh was born with three major heart defects and just before Christmas last year she was given only days to live as her heart was failing. But at a last moment, doctors at Great Ormand Street gave her a reprieve by connecting her to a £100,000 Berlin heart which artificially pumped blood around her body. This was only a temporary measure, done in the hope that a heart donor could be found. After spending 255 days connected to this machine, her and her family’s prayers were answered and only recently did Charleigh undergo a 10 hour heart transplant operation. She is still in intensive care, but the doctors are confident she will be out in time to spend a ‘normal’ Christmas with her family and, of course, to go on to lead a normal healthy life. This little girl also captured the heart of Olympic gold medallist Greg Rutherford who came and visited the family to congratulate them on this award before shooting off to an event in London.
People’s Choice Award:
This award is to celebrate all of tonight’s achievers and was open to the general public of Milton Keynes to vote for. Quite simply one person or team with the most votes will receive this award.
Georgia has achieved so much for the MK Netters. Her energy, dedication and enthusiasm, not only to play but to coach younger girls is endless. The public voted for her in their hundreds and we are proud to have such a talented individual within our county.