TV and stage stars, sporting champions, civic dignitaries and business leaders paid tribute to unsung individuals and groups who have shown courage and inspired or supported others across our communities as Port Vale FC staged the Your Heroes Awards last night (Sept 30).
Olympic and Paralympic heroes from North Staffordshire were also recognised at the Your Heroes awards ceremony which was organised by the Club and the Port Vale Foundation and sponsored by Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire University.
The Your Heroes Awards has been a natural extension of the work of Port Vale as the EFL’s Community Club of the Year – shining a light on to the courageous, the selfless and the inspiring.
VIP guests at the awards dinner included Oscar-winning local actress Rachel Shenton, comedian Nick Hancock and stage star Jonny Wilkes who presented some of the prizes alongside Port Vale co-owner and Chair Carol Shanahan OBE at Festival Park’s DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel.
Equestrian star Sir Lee Pearson CBE set the tone for the evening with an inspirational speech following his Paralympic success in Tokyo which takes his tally to an incredible 14 gold medals.
The awards ceremony was the culmination of a six-month campaign during which more than 120 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, Community Group and Uniformed Hero.
An audience of more than 260 guests heard stories of unconditional love, daily struggles, selflessness and determination.
The evening was hosted by the awards’ founder, Martin Tideswell, Director of Commercial, Communications and Community at Port Vale Football Club.
He told the audience: “Tonight 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 of the evening, which was presented by Rachel Shenton, saw three children named joint winners of the Child of Courage accolade. They were five-year-old Madeleine Cooper from Meir Park, who received cancer treatment during the pandemic, 13-year-old Ashton Hulme, from Trentham, who is determined to become a footballer despite having part of his leg amputated, and 10-year-old Jake Cassidy, from Bradwell, who raises money for charity despite having serious medical conditions, all had their moment in the spotlight.
Every Your Heroes winner received a personalised Wedgwood trophy – hand-painted in Barlaston. Child winners also received prizes including family tickets for the Regent Theatre panto, Alton Towers tickets, Port Vale match tickets and afternoon tea at World of Wedgwood.
Panto star Jonathan Wilkes 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. Rowena Clarke, 20, from Newcastle-under-Lyme was named as the winner with highly commended prizes going to Kadi Boughey, 14, from Leek, and Liam Swain, 21, from Hanley.
Dementia support organisation Approach was named community group of the year in recognition of its work to support dementia patients and their families during the pandemic.
Carol Shanahan OBE, co-owner and chair of Port Vale FC, also handed community group prizes to highly commended winners The Nappy Project and Affordable Foods Stoke.
Olympic gold medal winner Imran Sherwani presented the Carer of the Year Prize to Kerry Walshe, who continued her work running five care homes for adults with learning difficulties despite suffering life-changing injuries in a car accident. Highly commended prizes in this category went to Jeanette McCartney, Director of Care at the Dougie Mac, and foster carers Emily and Dan Mycock.
Writer and broadcaster Wendy Turner-Webster presented the NHS Hero Awards to a team from Stoke-on-Trent City Council who volunteered at the Royal Stoke during the pandemic. Highly commended prizes went to the entire University Hospital of North Midlands team and engineer Joanne Wright, who helped to design and construct a Nightingale hospital.
The Chairman of Stoke City Football Club, Peter Coates, presented the Charity Champion or Volunteer prize to food business owner Arfan Mohammed from Abbey Hulton, who gave away countless free meals during the pandemic and even helped fund funerals. Highly commended prizes in this category went to YMCA volunteer Phill Dann and soldier turned fundraiser Corporal Daniel Tranter.
Four winners, family support workers Andrea Findler, Beverley Bromage, Sally Adams and Wendy Lambert-Eardley, shared the Inspiration in Education prize which was presented by Professor Liz Barnes CBE, Vice-chancellor of Staffordshire University. Highly commended prizes went to post-16 learning manager Wesley Weston and posthumously to former Ormiston Meridian Academy principal, Gareth Jones.
The former Chief Constable of Staffordshire, Jane Sawyers, presented a posthumous Uniformed Hero award to the family of PC Nick Oldfield who lost his life to COVID-19 in January. Colour Sergeant Richard Joynes of the Mercian Regiment and Special Chief Inspector Martin Goodwin both received highly commended prizes.
TV presenter and comedian Nick Hancock presented a posthumous Civic Pride award to recognise the achievements of Don Shelley, the founder of the Potteries Marathon and Potters ‘Arf. Highly commended prizes were presented to Dawnie Reynolds of Ruff and Ruby and tattoo artist turned community hero Jason Powner.
Sporting Icon awards went to Olympian Jazmin Sawyers and record-breaking former Vale striker Tom Pope, with Councillor Abi Brown, the Leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, handing over their trophies.
The finale saw the area’s Olympic and Paralympic heroes, plus Vale legend Popey, take to the stage to be inducted into the City of Stoke-on-Trent Sporting Hall of Fame.
Sir Lee Pearson CBE, para-canoeist Ian Marsden, long jumper Jazmin Sawyers, triple jumper Ben Williams, sprinter Ashleigh Nelson and our own ‘Sneyd Green sniper’ Popey will all now have their names added to a list that already includes the likes of Sir Stanley Matthews and Gordon Banks OBE.
The evening’s musical entertainment came courtesy of Olympia Curry, who will play the fairy in The Regent Theatre panto this Christmas alongside Jonny Wilkes.
The organisers of Your Heroes would like to thank the following companies for their contributions: The DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel, Netbiz, Spiral Colour, Wedgwood, The Regent Theatre, Alton Towers, World of Wedgwood and the Staffordshire Oatcake Company.
A huge thank you must also go to the evening’s sponsors – Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Staffordshire University.