Welwyn Hatfield Times Community Awards 2019: Here are your winners
PUBLISHED: 10:00 20 July 2019 | UPDATED: 16:13 22 July 2019
©Cathy Benucci Photography
Our annual Welwyn Hatfield Times Community Awards took place last night - with 12 worthy winners, alongside our fantastic finalists, celebrating great work and achievements in Welwyn Hatfield and Hertsmere over the last year.
The event at the Oaklands College's WGC campus began with a welcome speech from Welwyn Hatfield Times editor Nick Gill.
Following a few words from Howard Centre manager Shaun Wall and an evening meal, we handed over to our host - Formula 1's David Croft - and the award ceremony was under way.
Kicking things off was the Howard Centre Community Hero Award which went to James Bentall - the founder and organiser of the North Mymms Youth Project. This youth club provides activities that hundreds of young adults and children may not have accessed before.
Speaking about the youth group, James said: "We find that kids make friends and they do stay together, they make friendships that last for life there. We ask for them to give some back to the community too, like litter picks."
The other nominees were: Conner Martin - who rescued two children that were trapped in a house fire, Stephen Willis - who has taught in Welwyn-Hatfield for his entire 40-year career and Carol Young - who has just retired as the challenge events manager at the Willow Foundation after 15 years.
Next up was the award for Role Model of the Year, sponsored by the WHT, which Gillian and Brian Scott took home. Brian took on the 'ultimate' dry January to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust after having lost three children to the disease.
Brian said: "I like drinking, I'm a wine buff. I just had tap water, no tea, coffee, or soda for the whole month.
"The cystic fibrosis hit us when we were very young - It forced me and Gill to fill a hole, so we fostered 30 children over 25 years."
Finalists for this category were Karen Spencer - who dedicates her time to charity SPACE which supports parents of children on the autistic spectrum, 15-year-olds Elena Staves & Katie McAree - who took it upon themselves to end period poverty at Bishop's Hatfield Girls' School and Michael Jones - who walked from Land's End to John O'Groats to raise funds for the Hatfield Night Shelter.
Carol Young won the Charity Champion Award, sponsored by Archant, having just retired as the challenge events manager at the Willow Foundation after 17 years.
Carol spoke about how she raised funds for Willow: "It was just persuading people to take on all sorts of challenges, iron mans, marathons etc - and getting them to understand what Willow does."
Finalists were Andrea Halliwell - who ran the London Marathon raising nearly £3,000 for the Lister Neonatal Big Build, The Secret Society of Hertford Crafters - who raised £1,200 for Isabel Hospice by adorning post boxes with knitted, wooly hats at Christmas time and the previously mentioned Michael Jones - who raised more than £3,000 for the Hatfield Night Shelter.
The Carer of the Year Award, sponsored by B&M Care's St Andrews Care Home, was taken home by Anthony and Gemma McDuffus, who offered to become the primary carer for their cousin's son as he was at risk of permanent exclusion from school.
The other finalists were Lorraine Catlin - who has been caring for and homeschooling her autistic son by herself for the past 14 years and Simone and Adrian Trundell - who have fostered and supported several children over the years.
The Valiant Volunteer Award, sponsored by the WHT, was given to Penny Lowde - who is heavily involved in the Parent School Association giving countless hours of her time to help organise numerous events throughout the year.
Penny told Crofty about why puts so much effort in: "Just because of the smiles on children's faces, I love it - it's not just for my children it's for all of them."
The other finalists in the catergory were Tom Miller - who won gold for Team GB at the Special Olympics this year, volunteering his time to help Equine students from Oaklands College - Frances Turner, who has been volunteering for more than four years with Age UK Hertfordshire, and Mike Izzard - who has spent the last four years single-handedly rejuvenating Nast Hyde Halt, a disused Hatfield train platform, for the community.
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The School of the Year Award, sponsored by Oaklands College, was won by St Michaels Woolmer Green Primary School, which has been recognised for making the mental health of the children a priority after the unexpected death of headteacher Brendan Mallon in 2017.
A governor for the school spoke about carrying on after the passing of Mr Mallon: "There was tremendous support from the staff, governors and parents. We came together and moved forward - and the school continues to grow."
The other finalists were Green Lanes Primary School, North Star Academy and Chancellor School.
The Good Neighbour Award, sponsored by eatlunch, was won by Conner Martin and Harry Hagger, who saved and took care of a family of five, after a fire at their home in Welwyn Garden City just before New Year's Eve.
Harry spoke about how they saved the children from a house fire by getting them out of the house through a window with a ladder. Harry said: "There was just smoke everywhere, you could only see a foot in front of you. We managed to get round to the back garden where we could see the kids screaming inside."
The other nominees were Bob Castle - who drove from a London hospital to Welwyn Hatfield to take someone home and paramedic Emma Gearing - who used her quick thinking to remove gas cylinders from a road traffic accident and then led the driver to a place of safety.
Angela Gaughan went home with the Parent in a Mllion category, sponsored by The Hawrd Centre. Angela is the co-founder of Potential Kids, a charity that provides social activities for neurodiverse children and young people.
Angela, whose son has a condition, said: "It's difficult - I feel quite emotional actually. It's a difficult situation."
The other finalists were the previosuly mentioned Lorraine Catlin and Adrian McNeece - who pushed our NHS trust to remove a company responsible for sharing 14 million people's data from Lister Hospital.
William Hoy won the Young Achiever Award, sponsored by Archant. After suffering a serious knee injury that kept him out of school he was able to pass his GCSEs and is now continuing his recovery in Monks Walk Sixth Form.
William, who is doing his A-Levels and recently passed his driving test, reflected on his difficult injury: "It got to the point where I wasn't able to walk properly - it took me 20 minutes to get up the stairs."
The other finalists were Grace Wilkinson - who started a support group for her peers after attending a course about domestic abuse - young dancers Oliver & James Ashton, who performed a "show-stopping" performance on the BBC's The Greatest Dancer earlier this year, and Balint Domonkos who arrived in the UK from Hungary in 2011 and - despite English being his second language - is on track to achieve A* in all four of his A-Level subjects.
Danielle Wainhouse went home with the Service to the Community Award, sponsored by HRJ Foreman Laws Solicitors. Danielle runs Theraputic Hooves which helps people of all ages with physical, mental, emotional and behavioural issues through equine therapy.
Danielle said: "We work with adults and children, with people who just need a little bit of extra support really. The therapy horses are amazing at picking up on how people feel."
The remaining Service to the Community nominees were the aforementioned James Bentall, husband Paul Wainhouse and the Potential Kids Team - whose work makes a huge difference to neurodiverse children and their families.
Rod Unger won the Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Hertfordshire Life, by setting up a charity called DEKAMILE to help locals in Togo and through supporting many local charities like Potential Kids.
A good friend of Rod, Caroline, spoke on his behalf as he was away for his birthday: "It's been going for about 15 years, it started when Rod and his wife went to a wedding in Togo and they saw the poverty there. They decided they wanted to do something about it."
Finalists for this category were Ann Ross - the founder of ADD-vance the ADHD & Autism Trust - Francis Gallacher, the lead coach and coaching co-ordinator at Welwyn Wheelers for over a decade, and Jim Holder-Vale - a D-Day veteran from Welwyn Garden City.
Well done to all of our winners and finalists!