Best of Wearside: The 20 winners who make Sunderland proud

Award winners following the Best of Wearside event at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

Award winners following the Best of Wearside event at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

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It was an evening filled with magical moments as the Best of Wearside awards reached its grand finale.

And to top off a night of drama at the Stadium of Light, six brave children stole the show at the event, which honours the unsung heroes of our communities.

Lifetime Achievement award winners June Knightley and Ray Knox following the Best of Wearside event at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

Lifetime Achievement award winners June Knightley and Ray Knox following the Best of Wearside event at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

They got a standing ovation after being announced as the worthy winners of our Child of Courage category.

They were;

•Leo Makin, aged 21 months, who needed life-saving surgery after he was born with two giant holes in the heart

•Alex Jackson, aged eight, who was born with an extremely rare condition which meant a large proportion of his bowel was outside his stomach

Lifetime Achievement award winners June Knightley and Ray Knox with Joy Yates during the Best of Wearside event at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

Lifetime Achievement award winners June Knightley and Ray Knox with Joy Yates during the Best of Wearside event at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

•Jasmine Ather-Elder, aged ten, who has cerebral palsy and raised funds to help other children

•Five-year-old Kian Armstrong, who fought a rare cancer

•One-year-old Chanel Murrish, who was the youngest person in the world to have had open-heart surgery – done when she was born

•And Thomas Russell, aged ten, who has twice defied the odds to fight back from an extremely rare lung disease and stage four neuroblastoma.

Children of Courage receive their awards during the Best of Wearside event at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

Children of Courage receive their awards during the Best of Wearside event at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

They were six of many heroes on a night when magic was the theme – and when Wearside’s caring spirit was the real winner.

Sport came to the fore when Steph Houghton won the Special Recognition Award, after a year in which she led England’s footballing ladies to a bronze medal at the World Cup.

Sunderland AFC Ladies won the Sports Team of the Year trophy after storming to a top-four finish in the highest division of women’s football in England.

The Sporting Excellence title went to Andrew Robertson, who battled through a life-threatening illness to run marathons and a triathlon.

11 year old Tom Smith receives his award during the Best of Wearside event at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

11 year old Tom Smith receives his award during the Best of Wearside event at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

And two stalwarts of Wearside life – Ray Knox and June Knightley – both collected Lifetime Achievement awards.

June, 82, from Houghton, has dedicated her spare time to helping the people of the town since 1977, while 65-year-old Ray has been a member of Grindon Young People’s Centre since he was 12 and held pretty much every position in the centre, from youth worker to management committee member.

The honours just kept on coming, with Young Asian Voices winning the Community Group title and the Schools Out Fun Club volunteers also excelling with a highly commended honour; David Collins becoming Student of the Year; Lindsay Williams chosen as Community Champion for her role at North East Sport; and Claire Douglas as Fundraiser of the Year after raising £26,000 at Sunderland’s first-ever Poppy Run.

Tom Smith, 11, is this year’s Child of Achievement after judges heard how he had defied a rare heart condition to become a singing sensation. He then showed off his talents when he performed for the Best of Wearside audience.

Sustainable Sunderland are our Green Champions, while Apprentice star Katie Bulmer-Cooke took the Role Model title for becoming an inspiration to business people and spearheading a drive to help teenage girls be happy with themselves. Mary Jordan was the Volunteer of the Year for giving her time to a number of Gentoo projects that benefit the community.

And Kirsty McGurrell collected the Judges Choice honour for throwing herself into charity work after her son was stillborn in 2009.

11 year old Tom Smith receives his award during the Best of Wearside event at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

11 year old Tom Smith receives his award during the Best of Wearside event at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland Picture: DAVID WOOD

Our thanks go to Vantec for its backing and this year, the competition was held in association with the firm.

Category sponsors were Calsonic, Gentoo, Martinos, TWR and UK Asbestos and we thank them all for their fantastic backing.

•The Echo will be bringing you interviews, more photographs and more atmosphere from the night of high emotion, all in a supplement to be published in the paper next Wednesday.

So make sure you get your copy of the Echo for much more on the Best of Wearside Awards.

The winners:


Community Champion, sponsored by Gentoo: Lindsay Williams.


Community Group of the Year, sponsored by Calsonic Kansei: Young Asian Voices. Highly commended: the Schools Out Fun Club volunteers.


Volunteer of the Year, sponsored by TWR: Mary Jordan.


Child of Courage, sponsored by Martinos: Leo Makin; Alex Jackson; Jasmine Ather-Elder; Kian Armstrong; Chanel Murrish; Thomas Russell.


Child of Achievement, sponsored by Vantec: Tom Smith.


Role Model of the Year, sponsored by Stagecoach Sunderland: Katie Bulmer-Cooke.


Sporting Excellence,  sponsored by UK Asbestos: Andrew Robertson.


Student of the Year, sponsored by Gentoo: David Collins.


Green Champion of the Year, sponsored by Calsonic Kansei: Sustainable Sunderland.


Fundraiser of the Year, sponsored by TWR: Claire Douglas.


Judges Choice Award, sponsored by Vantec: Kirsty McGurrell.


Sports Team of the Year, sponsored by UK Asbestos: Sunderland AFC Ladies.


Special Recognition Award, sponsored by Sunderland Echo: Steph Houghton.


Lifetime Achievement, sponsored by Sunderland Echo: Ray Knox and June Knightley.