Last year’s winners included Abbi, who was diagnosed with Ullrich Congenital Muscular Dystrophy at the age of two. She is so weak that she can be knocked off her feet by a gust of wind or someone accidentally brushing against her. But the Bournville schoolgirl refuses to let her illness stop her remarkable fundraising efforts to help find a cure for the disease. She was thrilled to receive her award from Harry Potter stars Oliver and James Phelps who play the Weasley twins in the hit movie series. “We feel right at home here,” they said, looking around the amazing Great Hall venue, which resembles the school for witchcraft and wizardry.
We also met the feisty Anthony Mathers who certainly wasn’t going to let being 75 be a barrier when he was confronted by car thieves near his home in Acocks Green. The worthy winner of our Outstanding Bravery Award gave chase when the gang confronted him and his story impressed Birmingham hero Noddy Holder so much that he asked to personally present him with the award to applaud his wonderful heroics.
Meeting Georgie Moseley was an absolute honour, her story had us reaching for the tissues and is a testament to the strength of a mother’s love for her child. Everyone in Birmingham knows the name Harry Moseley. He is the inspirational little boy who raised more than £750,000 for charity after being diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour back in 2007. Since he passed away in 2011, aged just 11, his mum Georgina has carried on the work of his Help Harry Help Others charity, which provides support for families affected by the cancer.
Our 2017 TSB Community Partner of the Year Award couldn’t have gone to a more deserving winner - he has no hidden agenda, there is no personal gain – he just saw a problem in his community and wanted to fix it. It was our pleasure to highlight the work of the truly humbling Randhir Singh Heer who created the Midland Langar Seva Society offering an open kitchen to "all and everyone" in need of food every night of the week. A team of volunteers serve around 5,000 meals a week to the needy in 15 towns and cities.
Our Child of Courage Award is always emotional and last year was no exception. Bradley Addison loves football, and dreamed of playing in the claret and blue of Aston Villa – then he was struck down by life-limiting Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. But he wasn’t about to give up on his dream and is now a Villa wheelchair footballer at national level, who longs to play for England.
We all greatly admire our emergency services and last year’s winners literally saved the life of a mum and her unborn child. The winners were the incredible Midlands Air Ambulance crew who saved Natalie Queiroz after she was stabbed 24 times by her partner during a frenzied attack in Sutton Coldfield town centre last year. Natalie paid an emotional tribute to them, saying: “My baby and I would not be here today if it was not for the Midlands Air Ambulance, and my other two daughters would not have their mum or little sister. ‘Thank you will never be enough.”
When you think of fundraising one name goes straight to the top of the list - the simply outstanding Dave Heeley. Dave has raised more than £1million for charity along the way in a series of gruelling endurance challenges. Known affectionately by friends and supporters as Blind Dave, he has completed 12 London Marathons and 13 Great North Runs. In 2008 he ran seven marathons in seven days on seven continents, and in 2011 he ran and cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats, raising £107,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support. The Top 2 Toe run saw him run 26.2 miles every morning before jumping on his bike and cycling up to 100 miles. In 2015, he took on his most incredible challenge yet, the Marathon Des Sables, running 156 miles across the Sahara Desert in temperatures of up to 50C. Helped by two guides, he was the first blind runner to complete the world’s toughest race, in which competitors also have to carry their provisions for five days of running on their backs. The judges said: “Dave’s achievements would be truly astonishing even if he wasn’t blind. He is an incredible man.” We couldn’t agree more.
We were also privileged to honour Michelle Quested, an inspirational nurse who returned to the wards despite being paralysed from the waist down. Michelle Quested was left wheelchair-bound following a car accident in 2010, and spent five months in hospital. But she never gave up on her dream of returning to the job she loves, as a neonatal cardiac nurse at Birmingham Children’s Hospital, tending premature babies and newborns with serious health problems.
Within a year of her accident, she was back at work in an administrative role, and she finally achieved her dream of returning to the wards in April 2016, after being given a specially-adapted electric wheelchair that means she can handle babies and manoeuvre around bedside equipment
Our Prince’s Trust Young Achiever Lisa Case is a true example of how a terrible start in life doesn’t need to define your future aspirations. Lisa suffers with hydrocephalus, a build-up of fluid on the brain that can cause brain damage. She was sexually abused when she was 17, a traumatic experience that left her suffering with post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. She lost direction and when her mother contracted pneumonia, Lisa found herself caring for her mother and completely withdrew from society. Fortunately a visit to her local JobCentre Plus gave her hope. She met a Prince’s Trust Outreach Executive who inspired her to join Team, a Prince’s Trust programme that builds the confidence and employability prospects of unemployed young people.
Lisa felt supported at Team, overcame her anxiety and pushed herself to see what she was really capable of. She has since secured work at Halfords as a Customer Service Advisor, and loves her new life.
Our winners also included a well known face in Birmingham. Marcia Shakespeare’s life was shattered when her 17 year old daughter Letisha and her cousin Charlene were murdered in a drive-by shooting in 2003. Since then Marcia has led a tireless drive for peace and channelled her loss into a campaign aimed at steering teenagers and young adults away from crime. Marcia, along with Charlene’s mum Bev Thomas, led the Birmingham-Mail backed Letisha and Charlene Education Award scheme, aiming at helping local teenagers achieve their educational goals. Marcia then set up The Precious Trust, through which she runs workshops for young people and visits schools and youth clubs. She has spoken on over 700 occasions to more than 100,000 young people.
We were also humbled to honour two incredible establishments with the Judges Special Award. The worthy recipients were the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine and Help For Heroes.
On a night of heroes, it was young Moin Younis who brought it all into focus. Our Teenager of Courage winner undoubtedly stole the show with his eloquent speech, incredible outlook and hard-hitting life affirming messages. The brave Brummie youngster has EB - a rare life-limiting condition which makes his skin blister, bleed and break at the slightest touch. But he refuses to succumb to the cruel pain and has become an ambassador for the children’s hospice that has helped him. After the awards Noddy Holder’s wife Suzan wrote “We all stood and applauded. It wasn’t enough”.
Winners of our annual awards are all shortlisted for Pride of Britain and last year Moin won our hearts and his rightful place on the winner’s list. He is now urging you to nominate inspirational people from Birmingham.
“I never thought my story would interest anyone,” he admits modestly. “I used to watch Pride of Britain on TV and be so impressed by the winners. But their stories aren’t often told. I was surprised when I was told I’d won, and even more surprised so many people cheered me on. “I don’t know how long I’m going to be living this life for but I’m here. I’m learning to drive. I’m helping other kids. And I’m hoping the Villa do better. While I’m here I want to get a message to everyone. Please, please make the most of your life. Make the most of what you have.”
You can nominate anyone of any age for the Pride of Birmingham Awards. The only stipulation is that the nominee will need to be from, or working in, the Birmingham Mail’s circulation area. It’s often said at times like these that we’re looking for ordinary people doing extraordinary things. We know from past experience that’s not quite right. It’s those doing extraordinary things they modestly see as ordinary. Winners chosen by the judging panel will be honoured in front of an audience of stars at Birmingham University’s Great Hall in March. This year we are delighted to announce the launch of the Stephen Sutton Award which will honour a person whose example has been truly inspirational. It is named after the late teenager who taught the world to live life to the full.
Last year’s awards were incredible, we can’t wait to do it all over again – Birmingham we need to hear about your heroes. Nominate them here