Pride in Breckland award nominees

Emma Knights They are the unsung heroes that truly are the pride of Breckland and soon many of them will be rewarded for their inspiring achievements at a glittering awards ceremony.

Emma Knights

They are the unsung heroes that truly are the pride of Breckland and soon many of them will be rewarded for their inspiring achievements at a glittering awards ceremony.

The inaugural Pride in Breckland Awards, organised by Breckland Council, aims to honour those who help to make the area great.

Scores of people were nominated for the different categories that range from top achiever to good friend or neighbour to child of courage.

Three people have been shortlisted for each award and the winners will be announced at a special ceremony on Friday at Lynford Hall, in Mundford.

William Nunn, leader of the council, said the event is about applauding and celebrating the remarkable contributions that people in Breckland are making in their communities and beyond.

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He said the finalists had all made outstanding achievements by devoting their time, energy and skills, and by showing an incredible amount of commitment and enthusiasm.

Joining the finalists at the awards will be courageous guardsman Simon Weston who is the guest speaker and compere.

Mr Weston was so badly burned when the Sir Galahad was bombed in 1982 during the Falklands War that his own mother did not recognise him. But he has ever since shown tremendous optimism and determination and was made an OBE in 1992 for his extensive work for charity.

Among those who will present the awards are: champion boxer Jon Thaxton for sporting excellence, Major James Campbell-Bernard of the Light Dragoons for child of courage and south west Norfolk MP Christopher Fraser for top achiever.

Two acts, which have already been named joint winners in the Young Performer category of Pride in Breckland, will also be performing on the night.

They are singer and dancer Ellie Chasney, who has taken part in X Factor and was a finalist in Thetford's Got Talent competition, and Irish dance group Celtic Storm which is made up of 16 youngsters aged seven to 17.

Those who have made the shortlists are:

Top Achiever

t Aaron Grime, 18, from East Harling, has been physically disabled since birth, has epilepsy, and has suffered from a serious case of meningitis, but despite this he is a very active member of his community and is described by a many as a very special person.

He volunteers with First Responders, a first aid group that works closely with the emergency services. He also volunteers at Attleborough and Dereham day centres for adults with learning difficulties and is described as a vital member of East Harling Youth Club.

t Twenty-one-year-old Lance Corporal Oliver Ruecker, from Mundford, is a member of the Royal Anglian Regiment and he has received the Military Cross for exceptional bravery in Afghanistan. When his vehicle was hit and burst into flames in Helmand Province he came face-to-face with a Taliban fighter. He had to shoot the fighter before rescuing his fellow soldiers before the vehicle exploded.

t Jan Godfrey, from the Wayland Partnership, is passionately dedicated to improving the Wayland area.

She was instrumental in forming and supporting Wayland Youth Council, and she works tirelessly to help improve Watton and the surrounding area. Her many achievements include playing a part in helping to refurbish the town centre and bringing lots of external funding to the area.

Safer Breckland

t Frank McKenzie, 74, from Thetford, is committed to improving the Abbey Estate and people say he is “truly what community spirit is all about.”

He is chairman of the Abbey Tenants and Residents Association and among the many things he has achieved in the last year are setting up a youth club, running weekly bingo sessions, campaigning for the shopping precinct and promoting community care.

t Steve Burke, from Thetford Police, is dedicated to reducing crime and improving parts of Thetford. He was a founder member of the town's Community Action Team. He helps improve areas where crime is a problem and looks after victims of crime.

t Janet King, from Wymondham, has been a volunteer for Victim Support for 19 years and has helped many victims in Breckland who have suffered from the trauma and aftermath of crime.

Child of Courage

t Elliott Scoffield, from Thetford, was diagnosed with a brain tumour when he was just three and given just a 5pc chance of survival. In the past eight years he has had numerous operations, chemotherapy and radiotherapy but despite everything he has always remained a happy and kind child. Experts said he would never ride a bike but most weekends he now joins his dad mountain biking at Thetford Forest.

t Fourteen-year-old Sophia Walker, from Little Dunham, was diagnosed with Neurofibromatosis when she was just six months old.

She has a tumour that is disfiguring the right-hand side of her face and is increasing in size but despite this she stays positive and tells people it is her “special check.”

For the past two years she has worked as a volunteer helping the elderly at Crown Rest Home.

t Tiana MacKay, from Dereham, is just 15 months old but already she has had to endure three major heart operations because of two serious heart conditions she was born with.

In the future she will need to have her heart valve replaced every one to three years as a child and every 10 to 15 years as an adult.

Her parents say that despite everything she never stops smiling and she has been an inspiration to hundreds of people.

Greener Breckland

t Set up by students three years ago, Eco Bugs, at Wayland Community High School, in Watton, is an environmental group dedicated to making the school a greener place.

Two hundred people are now involved and the initiatives the Eco Bugs team has been involved with include installing new waste recycling bins, developing an eco road show for other schools, participating in Big Clean Up projects and waste and litter free weeks.

t Les and Vanessa Scott have owned Strattons Hotel, in Swaffham, since the early 1990s. The hotel has been recognised as a leading green hotel and it produces less rubbish per week than a two-person home. The hotel has already won a number of awards. Mr and Mrs Scott are ardent supporters of Norfolk and play an active role in promoting the area.

t Garden Science Trust, based at the EcoTech Centre, in Swaffham, supports groups of volunteers with learning difficulties who want to learn about gardening and the local environment.

The volunteers meet each week to help maintain an organic garden, and part of the produce from the garden is used in the EcoTech caf�.

Other initiatives the volunteers have been involved in include planting and maintaining a flower bed for a nearby community centre and redeveloping a garden for Swaffham and Litcham Home Hospice offices.

Carer of the year

t Sister Emilia Birch, from Convent of the Sacred Heart, in Swaffham, has helped large numbers of Portuguese migrant workers settle into the Swaffham area. She offered advice and guidance to those in need, helped stop them feeling isolated, and gave English language training.

She is described by some as “the mother to those in need from all nationalities.”

t Gail Adcock, from Watton, has been the manager of Wayland Hall Luncheon Club for more than 10 years and always makes people feel involved and welcomed.

She always goes beyond the call of duty, arranges regular outings for members, and organises fundraisers to keep the cost of eating out low so that as many older people as possible take part.

t Don Saunders, from Carbrooke, near Watton, has helped many young people and their families through his work at Family Action in Swaffham. He has helped to improve the behaviour of many youngsters and enabled them to return to mainstream education. He organises many events including football training, family activity days and a club for careers. Mr Saunders is also a trustee of the Garden Science Trust and a director of the Iceni Partnership.

Sporting Excellence

t Alpine ski racer Marcus Williams, from East Harling, competes in his sport throughout Europe, and this winter he has been selected for the British Children's Ski Team.

Last year the 12-year-old won the Eastern Region Ski Association Summer League Series despite missing three races due to breaking one of his wrists.

He is being tipped as having real Olympic potential.

t Nigel Armes, from Thetford, has been an inspiration to young footballers for more than two decades. He has contributed to youth football for more than 25 years as the manager and coach for the youth teams of Thetford Town Football Club and during this time he has also organised many European football trips.

t Colin Oates, from North Lopham, started learning judo when he was eight and for the past six years he has been a member of the British senior squad, representing Great Britain in countries including Holland, America, Egypt, Italy and the Ukraine

He has won many medals and championships and is described as “a credit to the sport of judo and a first class athlete.”

Despite his busy schedule he also spends time helping young judo players develop their skills.

Good Friend or Neighbour

t Sandra Phillips, from Thetford, has been described as an outstanding friend and neighbour.

She runs the Fellowship Committee for St Cuthbert's Church, in Thetford. She is also at the fore of organising fundraising events for the church and organises an annual Christmas project to send presents to needy children around the world.

She helps many people in lots of different ways, such as taking people shopping, to church and on outings, helping people with computer work, and caring for those who are injured and unwell.

t Twin brothers Sean and Andre Plummer, from Watton, spend their time entertaining people with their singing at residential homes in Watton and Thetford. They also sing for free at special events to help raise money for charity.

The duo were finalists of Thetford's Who's Got Talent Competition.

t Tracey McKenzie, from Swanton Morley, has been described as a lifeline by friend Caroline Cox.

Two months after Mrs Cox moved to the army barracks at Swanton Morley her husband, a soldier in the Light Dragoons, was deployed to Iraq for six months. Mrs McKenzie was described as a “ray of light” in how she helped Mrs Cox settle into army life. They have now become firm friends and continue to offer help and support to each other.

Community Group of the Year

t Anti-bullying group Just Smile, from Shipdham, was set up by teenagers Neola, Ellice and Ria Bush and Harriet Gilford about 22 months ago. The group has established an anti-bullying campaign which has been taken to different schools throughout Norfolk and Suffolk. Just Smile has also raised funds for Smile Boxes for schools which pupils can post their name in if they are being bullied and need support. The group has also worked with a number of other organisations such as Victim Support and Connexions.

t Abbey Tenants and Residents Association, in Thetford, has been running for 17 years. The association has been working alongside Peddars Way Housing, Breckland Council, the fire service, police and other organisations to help make the area a nicer place to live.

t Wayland Youth Council has achieved a great deal for young people in the area including acquiring grants and putting on many different activities. The group is currently trying to secure funding to train young people in media studies and help with the Wayland Radio Station.

At the event on Friday Breckland Council Outstanding Achievement awards will also be presented to council staff.

The results of Breckland Local Independent Shop Stars will also be revealed for Town Shop of the Year and Village Shop of the Year.