Tonight we reveal our Stars of Suffolk award winners 2016
PUBLISHED: 15:35 24 November 2016 | UPDATED: 15:35 24 November 2016
From selfless families who have put others first despite dealing with their own trauma to brave teenagers battling life-changing illnesses - these are our Stars of Suffolk 2016.
We received hundreds of nominations this year, and each told a heart-warming story of someone who had overcome a major obstacle in their life while remaining positive and upbeat, or someone who had gone above and beyond to make life just that little easier for someone else.
Tonight the finalists in our annual community awards will gather at Trinity Park, near Ipswich to hear who the winners of each of the 14 categories are.
Here we meet the finalists - all deserving winners.
The family of Lizzie Ford - Lizzie Ford was just 18 when she died from a severe asthma attack - but her amazing legacy saved five other lives.
Just a week before she died, Lizzie spoke to her mother about organ donations - and, following her death, Lizzie’s family bravely decided to honour her wishes to allow her organs to save others.
This is exactly what happened - Lizzie’s heart, kidneys, spleen and liver went to desperately ill people and gave them a second chance of life, including a heart transplant for a boy of her own age. Lizzie’s family hope her story will inspire more people to sign the organ donor register.
Samantha Barnes - Samantha is a successful professional artist who uses her skills to embrace learning, foster talent, and promote creativity in her local community. She uses art to reach the most vulnerable people in the local community to give them pride and confidence.
She has become heavily involved in charity work, and also works on a voluntary basis with local primary and secondary schools, and with vulnerable adults.
Joan Rogers - Joan will soon be 90 years old, but her commitment and enthusiasm for neonatal babies and their families at Ipswich Hospital remains immense. Over the last few years, she has created an astonishing 943 memory bags for families. These are beautiful bags for families to use in hospital and then take home with them to fill with keepsakes from their stay. Joan has spent nearly 1,000 hours creating these lovely bags.
Hospital/ambulance/medical person of the year
Keren Brooke - Keren, who is play specialist at Ipswich Hospital, has been nominated by Victoria and Robert Bamford for the amazing care and compassion she has shown their daughter Lottie, who was born with complex abnormalities of one of her kidneys. The story is a very inspiring and emotive one, but Victoria and Robert’s words sum it up perfectly: “What Keren does differently is that she passionately cares and fights for the wellbeing of all those children who pass through the hospital doors. It’s hard to explain the genuine warmth and care she offers these children. Everybody can see how the doctors and nurses make the children physically better. But many miss the fact that Keren and her team are protecting them emotionally and physically.”
Dr Mike Bairstow - Dr Bairstow responded to the call from the World Health Organisation for medics to use their skills to help fight the deadly Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone. Dr Bairstow, a GP from Framlingham, joined one of the international medical teams for two months. At that time, the infection rate in Sierra Leone was 1,000 new cases a week, and without international intervention it was expected to climb to 10,000 each week. More than nine out of every ten patients were dying.
Dr Bairstow and his fellow volunteers helped to treat and save the lives of many men, women and children affected by Ebola. By the time he left six weeks later, infection rates had fallen, with 60-70 new cases a week and death rates had dropped to less than six in ten. Earlier this year, Sierra Leone was declared free of the deadly Ebola virus.
Paul King - Paul has dedicated his spare time in the last 15 years to being a community first responder in Leiston. He regularly puts in more than 30 hours a week to help save the lives of critically ill patients. This is all on top of his busy day job as a store manager. Paul also acts as a role model and mentor for new responders. Colleagues say you could not meet anyone with more dedication to helping others.
Team of the year
Teapotters - The Teapot Cafe, at McGinty’s in Ipswich, is an eating place with a difference. The team at the Teapot Cafe intercept food which would normally go to waste and turn it into a great menu.
These dishes are then sold on a “pay as you feel” basis, which means anyone can enjoy a hot meal, with no financial barriers. Hugs and work are welcomed in exchange..
Survivors in Transition - Survivors in Transition has an amazing team of volunteers who provide tireless hours of support to adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse from around Suffolk.
Without them, it would be impossible to deal with the unprecedented numbers coming forward for support. They receive no pay and give their time passionately.
Leiston First Responders - The team answer more than 500 life-threatening 999 calls each year on behalf of the ambulance service. The team of six mobilise within minutes to those in need. This has led to countless lives being saved and many people’s quality of life being assured thanks to their quick response.
David Gammell - After an accident while working on a ship at Ipswich docks, David suffered serious head injuries, leaving him with impaired vision and hearing, and a metal plate in his head. The former soldier, who served in Northern Ireland, learned to walk, and speak again, and last year he graduated from UCS with a 2:1 in diagnostic radiography. He works at James Paget Hospital.
David has this message for others who might find themselves in a similar situation: no matter what, you can still do whatever you want to do.
Kim Sale - Kim and her family were devastated just over a year ago when they were given the news that a rare form of cancer meant she would have to have a leg amputated above the knee. Kim, now 15, underwent the major surgery last October. Showing tremendous courage, she immediately began fund raising for a prosthetic leg, and has ambitions to compete in the Paralympic Games.
Carer of the year
Paula Davis - Paula lives with her husband Nick and two children, William and Jessica. William has Complex Touberous Sclerosis, along with a number of other health conditions, which have led to a lifetime of hospital visits, tests, operations, procedures and care. The family can never go on holiday as William can’t tolerate strange environments or destinations. Daily chores often have to be curtailed to ensure his needs are met. Paula has MS, but never, ever complains about ‘her lot.’ She tirelessly campaigns to help other families affected by her son’s condition.
Lenny Southgate - Chris Southgate, Lenny’s son, says: “My dad Lenny has cared for me since my accident in 2003 when I was paralysed in a cycling accident. I am a wheelchair user and have learning difficulties.
“My dad has been a great support, attending to my every need. He gave up work to look after me and my mum - it’s not been easy and he gets no help. My mum died suddenly in 2014. It hit dad very hard but he still manages to look after me. I would not be where I am without him and my late mother.”
Mandy Talbot - Not only is Mandy a manager at a play school, she has also cared for her daughter Zoe for the last 13 years after she was paralysed when a concrete canopy fell on her. Mandy has also cared for her husband who fell ill shortly after Zoe’s accident. Also, last year, Mandy’s mother had a stroke and she was with her every day as well as looking after her family of five and her 90-year-old father. The person nominating her says: “Mandy deserves this award so much. She’s so kind and lovely, and does so much for everyone else and never moans about anything that gets thrown at her in life.”
Search and Rescue team
Andy King and the Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue team - The Suffolk Lowland Search and Rescue team comprises nearly 40 volunteers who are on-call for emergencies 24/7. They come from a variety of backgrounds - anything from lorry drivers to accountants, and police officers to warehouse staff. By their very nature, emergencies can happen at any time - day or night - and the team is always ready to respond.
Recently, they have spent more than 5,000 man hours, or 555 working days, assisting in this search for missing Suffolk airman Corrie McKeague.
Phillip Pearce and Alasdair Nicol - Phillip and Alasdair were working on a coastguard boat which is kept at Felixstowe Ferry when they saw a man in difficulty in the water. Despite having no kit with them, they carried out a rescue operation to save the man and searched for another person who it was feared was also in the water.
They called for back-up, but were well aware they had to act fast to save the man’s life - which is exactly what they did.
Chris Matthews - Chris is a dedicated volunteer for the lifeboat crew in Aldeburgh as well as being an on-call ambulance first responder. It is normal for Chris to dedicate more than 30 hours a week to being on call to respond to emergencies and help the local community. All this on top of his busy “day job” as a store manager. Chris’ commitment means he goes above and beyond in terms of dedication and this is driven by his passion to help those in need.
Bailey Fleming - Bailey, who is 20, was born with cerebral palsy, but that has not stopped him playing regular football, CP football for England, and he is training to be a coach.
He has faced abuse on the pitch, but he turns a blind eye to it and lets his talent speak for him. He is a shining inspiration for all other young sportsmen and women.
Lucy Turmel - Lucy is a phenomenal young squash player, whose list of achievements is incredible. Lucy has won the Suffolk junior squash championship since the age of 11, and has been under 19 champion since she was 14. She won both the England and British girls under 17 championships in 2015, and is currently number three in the national under 19 rankings. Lucy was part of the England team at the World under 19 championships who won a bronze medal this year - their best-ever result. If we listed all of Lucy’s extraordinary achievements, we would need a whole page - suffice to say she’s a true Suffolk sporting superstar.
Young person of the year
Kaden McKenna - Kaden died, aged just nine, in January this year, five weeks after being diagnosed with leukaemia. Despite his serious illness, Kaden always thought of others first, raising money for Addenbrooke’s Hospital, where he was treated, and, when he was able to spend Christmas at home, he bought presents for other children who weren’t so lucky, and had to stay in hospital.
Kaden’s school described him as “one of the nicest boys we’ve had the privilege to be with.”
Connie Gibbs - Connie Gibbs is an inspirational Suffolk person who, with her father and aunt, has raised more than £30,000 for St Nicholas Hospice in Bury St Edmunds in memory of her mother, Zena.
Connie’s original target was to raise £10,000, but this has been more than tripled. Staff and students at King Edward VI Upper School in Bury, where Connie studied, have fully supported her fund-raising efforts, Her former headteacher Geoff Barton describes her as “an extraordinary inspiration.”
Ben Munson - Ben, 13, is in his second year at Thomas Gainsborough School in Sudbury. He readily and generously gives hours of his time to the Befriending Scheme in Sudbury. The Befriending Scheme provides friendship and learning opportunities for adults from vulnerable groups, including those with learning disabilities, mental health needs and older people. Ben is a kind and caring young man with a great perception of what is needed.
Sgt Ali Livingstone and Pc Ali Maidment - This heroic pair risked their lives last Christmas Day to rescue an Ipswich woman from her burning house. Seconds after they hauled the woman from her home, an explosion shattered a window, raining glass down on them. After the rescue, Sgt Livingstone described it as “the most frightening incident in his 16 years of service.”
The two Alis are no strangers to Stars of Suffolk - seven years ago they received an award for saving the life of a suicidal man who was threatening to jump from a multi-storey car park in Ipswich.
PCSO John Hood - John Hood dived into the waves off Felixstowe to save four teenage girls in a rubber dinghy who were in danger of drifting out to sea. In a very short space of time, the dinghy had drifted 150 metres out to sea and one of the girls was in the water. In John’s own words: “I could have stayed on the beach and called the Coastguard, but I know I am a strong swimmer, I know the water, and I made a decision to go in.”
By the time John - who has a pacemaker - reached the dinghy, it was 250 metres offshore. He grabbed a rope and towed it back to the beach as he swam. A happy ending - but it could have been very different.
Maureen Allen - Maureen is a police control room operator. Earlier this year she received the Archant award for the calm way she dealt with a call from a very distressed man who was threatening to jump from the top floor of a multi-storey car park in Bury St Edmunds. Maureen’s calm manner led directly to the man changing his mind - thereby saving his life. She says: “They can’t see a way out, but from my perspective there’s always a way out.”
Alan and Celia Comber - Alan and Celia are involved in many aspects of running the very successful 1st Kesgrave Scout Group. They do anything from organising and attending Scout camps to jumble sales and fairs held at the Scout hall, to providing the barbecue at the village fireworks.
“They are also involved with Kesgrave News and Kesgrave market, with Alan also being a town councillor. They are the type of people who always go the “extra mile,” but also the type of people who never give themselves credit for the tireless voluntary work they do.
Adrian Rawlinson - In the last year, Adrian has raised thousands of pounds for St Elizabeth Hospice by taking on two gruelling challenges. First he took part in the London to Paris ride, where his fellow cyclists voted him the most motivating team member. Then he braved torrential wind and gales to cycle the 315 miles from Newcastle to London in 24 hours following the death of his sister from cancer.
To top it all, Adrian won an extra £10,000 for the hospice by winning an online public vote. If every good cause had a champion fundraiser like Adrian the world would be a better place.
Tony Gearing - Tony is the founder of YOPEY, which stands for Young People of the Year. Tony realised that, at the other end of the age range, there are two million over 65s in the country who are lonely. From that realisation came YOPEY Befrienders. Tony trains young people to go into care homes and befriend elderly residents, many of whom have dementia. This has proved inspiring for many of the young people involved. He has set up schemes in Suffolk, Nottinghamshire and Hertfordshire, and is hoping to start up in Norfolk and Cambridgeshire as well.
Volunteer of the year
Marian Staples - Marian has worked at Suffolk Rape Crisis since the day it opened its helpline to support women and girls who have experienced any kind of sexual violence. To her colleagues, she is not only a volunteer but also a friend.
The people she supports get a great deal from talking to her, and she has never let them or her colleagues down. Marian is the longest-standing volunteer at Rape Crisis. She has supported many people who are at crisis point. Colleagues describe her as “AMAZING”.
Carol Lukins - Carol is a hero to many people. In the last 36 years, she has helped tens of thousands of children - both here and abroad - to get fit and active through various physical education programmes. She has also helped hundreds of young people who have got themselves into trouble to receive the support they need.
She has worked with Suffolk police, supporting young offenders, has volunteered with the prison service, has been a member of the Royal Navy Auxiliary Service and for 15 years has served as a first aider with the Red Cross. And for the last 20 years she has saved dozens of lives as a volunteer with Felixstowe Coastguard Rescue Team. She hasn’t been paid a penny for any of this work. She is an example to us all.
Paul Seymour - Paul has been a volunteer at St Elizabeth Hospice for the last six years and colleagues say they couldn’t do without him. He’s been a volunteer receptionist, is now a day care driver and has also been the “go-to” person to arrange the delivery and collection of giant pigs from around the country on behalf of the hospice’s Pigs Gone wild team - his talents are never ending. Paul is also chairman of the Rotary Club and he heads up a charity called Tools for Africa. Colleagues describe Paul as a complete star.
Armed services award
Staff Sgt. Richard Odame and Senior Airman Jacob See - USAF servicemen Richard Odame and Jacob See were in separate vehicles when they came across a woman lying beside the road after being struck by a car while riding her bicycle on a dark and foggy night.
The pair’s military training kicked in, and they directed traffic away from the injured woman and made sure she was kept calm and warm until the emergency services arrived. Richard said: “We are all human and we need to take care of each other. Being overseas, we need to be ambassadors for our country and leave a positive impression here in the UK.”
Royal British Legion drop-in centre, Lowestoft - The Royal British Legion branch at Lowestoft has gone out of its way to set up and provide a formal drop-in advice service for serving and former military personnel and their families in a deprived part of Suffolk.
The staff at the centre are all volunteers who have had special training. They have seen more than 800 people, dealing with pension enquiries, funeral issues, benefits, veterans with post traumatic stress disorder, and drugs issues, as well as a homeless veteran who was sleeping on the beach. The volunteers have also made more than 50 home visits to housebound people and offer a telephone befriending service. These are all volunteers giving their own retirement time to help the service community, and they have gone over and above what would normally be expected.
Kevin Knight - Kevin is a service member of our armed forces and still finds time not only to volunteer as a community first responder for the ambulance service but also leads the RAF community responder team. His team are there every day, ready to provide care and support to patients in Suffolk.
Daniel Newton - Daniel is a committed retained firefighter, volunteering for both the Aldeburgh and Saxmundham crews. He is now training for the crew commander role at a young age. He is a dedicated and passionate individual who always gives his all.
Recently, when a car was driven into water at Snape Maltings, Daniel was the first to volunteer to wade in to help the stricken driver and passenger, who were disabled.
Green Watch from East Ipswich and Princes Street fire stations - “We can’t save everybody. We’re not superheroes.” Those were the words of one member of the Ipswich-based Greenwatch team after a house fire tragedy. They are very modest words from a fire-fighting team which risks life and limb to rescue people, if not on a daily basis then certainly very frequently.
An example happened at the end of March this year, when they were called to a bungalow fire in Fuchsia Lane, Ipswich. As they arrived, they saw flames coming from one of the windows and licking up the side of the wall and up the roof. They went in, found two casualties, two elderly men, and got them out, despite the very real dangers they were facing. Sadly, one of the men died, but that in no way diminishes the courage and sheer professionalism shown by Green Watch at this fire and so many other serious incidents.
The judges will name their winner of each category on Thursday evening and they will also name their overall Star of Suffolk.
A special recognition award will be presented plus a special judge’s award.
See live coverage online on Thursday night plus a special eight-page supplement in print on Monday.