Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year nominee – Teri Elder

Former Army combat medic Teri Elder found that being outdoors helped with her anxiety, PTSD and postnatal depression – so she set up a community group to help other people too.

The mum-of-three, who has also experienced homelessness, gave up her job as an ambulance driver in 2019 to work full-time on Walk Talk Action CIC.

The group, based at Fenpark, has helped hundreds of Stoke-on-Trent residents including people with depression, postnatal depression, anxiety, midlife crisis, PTSD, isolation and loneliness as well as veterans and those needing support with their general health and wellbeing.

The group gets people outdoors to walk, talk and learn coping techniques to work through their problems one step at a time.

Teri secured a National Lottery grant for the group, was gifted a plot of land by the owners of Fenpark Fields and secured the donation of a portable cabin by Churnet Valley Railway.

Now Walk Talk Action CIC has been nominated as a Community Group of the Year in the

Your Heroes Awards by volunteer Laura Eyre and Teri has been nominated as a Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year.

Laura said: “The effort that Teri puts in to help local people in their local community is limitless. Teri is Walk Talk Action and Walk Talk Action is Teri.

“I feel that all the hard work that Teri does throughout the year definitely deserves recognition and I feel that Walk Talk Action is a worthy nominee for Community Group of the Year.”

Teri organises weekly community walks in and around Stoke-on-Trent, volunteer action days, 10 step programmes to help people discover what they really want out of life, weekly community coffee mornings at Meir Park and much more.

Walk Talk Action has enabled a veteran to write and publish their own book, supported adults back into education, helped people overcome their fears and given people the tools, knowledge and confidence to set up their own CICs.

The group worked with the New Vic Theatre, New Vic Borderlines and The National Lottery on a jubilee event including a free hot meal for attendees and the chance to try willow weaving and bird food making workshops.

Teri, from Meir Heath, said: “I’ve had a breakdown, I’ve had lived experience of being homeless, had PTSC, postnatal depression and chronic anxiety. I had a little girl in 2016 and at the time my partner had cancer. I didn’t want to be here.

“Then I started walking. By getting out of my four walls I was free. I started organising walks for other people and organising coffee mornings using my maternity money and any spare change I had.

“I listened to people’s problems to see if I could help them. It helped people to feel better about themselves and in an indirect way it was making me feel better too.”

What started as a personal crusade turned into Walk Talk Action CIC. Thanks to National Lottery funding Teri was able to give up her job as an ambulance driver in 2019 dedicate herself to her newfound mission.

“I’ve found my purpose in life,” she said. “We’ve helped hundreds of people back into education or employment. Once people are under the Walk Talk Action umbrella we’re there to help them through everything.”

Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year nominee –  Dave Swarbrook

Retired IT worker Dave Swarbrook is the volunteer defibrillator champion that every town should have.

Dave’s friend, David McNeaney, better known as Macca to his many friends, passed away following a sudden cardiac arrest on New Year’s Eve 2020.

Wanting to do something positive in memory of his friend, Dave, along with Macca’s family, decided it would be a fitting tribute to site an automatic electronic defibrillator (AED) in an empty phone box in Leek near to where Macca had been found collapsed.

Building on fundraising started by a local councillor, they decided to get involved and galvanise the appeal to save lives in the future by creating a memorial donations page with AEDdonate in Macca’s memory.

Several weeks later the appeal had raised enough money to pay for not one, but five AEDs around the town.

Having read that ideally you should be no further than 90 seconds away from an AED to have a fighting chance of surviving a sudden cardiac arrest, Dave worked with AEDdonate to ensure there was appropriate lifesaving cover around the town centre. This included him adding all of Leek’s AEDs to Google Maps to help identify where additional ones were needed.

There were further appeals happening in and around Leek and Dave, 57, linked local community groups, charities and businesses to AEDdonate so they could help with the fundraising. Within weeks AEDs were being delivered in more locations including a golf club, boxing academy, pubs and the local cricket club.

In just two years the town’s community public access defibrillator cover has increased from eight to more than 30 and there have already been several deployments of those AEDs.

Dave worked with a friend involved in PR to publicise the AED installations, reinforcing the message that you can never have enough AEDs which led to a large employer funding further AEDs across the town.

Dave has also arranged first aid at work training for 50 staff from Leek town centre shops and businesses.

He has now identified all the AEDs in the Staffordshire Moorlands district and as a result the town, parish and district councils are looking at a funding package to enable the maintenance and management of all the 130 plus AEDs which are registered across the district.

Jamie Richards, CEO of AEDdonate, said: “We can’t thank Dave enough for everything he has done to save lives in his community and AEDdonate’s challenge is now to find someone in every town and city the length and breadth of the country who can ‘be like Dave’.”

Dave has been nominated in the Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year category of the Your Heroes Awards.

He said: “I think we’ve done a good job but there’s still so much more to come. This started out in memory of David but once we could see where the gaps were it felt like we had to fill those gaps.”

Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year – Michelle Craggs

As a mum of four children with additional needs Michelle Craggs struggled to find the right parent support group – so she set it up herself.

The 48-year-old, from Fenton, has been running PEGIS – Parent Engagement Group in Stoke – for the past eight years.

PEGIS supports parents of children with additional needs, advocates on their behalf and runs various groups including at an in-patient unit.

Everything is volunteer-led with no paid employees, including 24/7 support for 2,400 parents. PEGIS makes no charge for its services.

Michelle, who has additional needs herself, has been nominated as a Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year in the Your Heroes Awards by a whole string of parents she has helped. PEGIS has also been nominated as a Community Group of the Year.

Heidi-Rose Wiseman said: “My children wouldn’t have the support they do currently were it not for Michelle and PEGIS. I have two autistic children, both needing specialist education. They have both been into a mental health facility, they have both tried to take their own lives.

“Were it not for Michelle I don’t think I would have been able to get through any of it. My girls wouldn’t have EHCPs, social care direct payments, CAMHS support, ISH support or even diagnoses so they can better understand themselves. Michelle and PEGIS are a true gem in our community.”

Wendy Powell said: “The work these volunteers do helps so many families not to feel isolated or overwhelmed by the special needs system.”

Hannah Gouldburn said: “I have known Michelle sit up for hours reading policies over and over again along with comparing it to the law. This ensures families who have children with special education needs or disabilities get the right support at the right time and when they don’t Michelle is their voice.

“I have known Michelle to support families into the early hours of the morning and Christmas Day. She takes no praise for it. Her motto is if children can try every day to learn then she can try every day to make the system better for them.”

Suzanne Pirchford said: “She is the voice of the special educational needs and disabilities parents in Stoke-on-Trent.”

Keely Smith said: “This group fills a massive void in the city’s support for parents.”

Michelle is more likely to nominate someone else for an award than accept one herself. She says she sees it as her job to help, support and nurture parents through the system.

She said: “Somewhere today in Stoke-on-Trent a child will be born with a disability. I will continue to work in whatever role I am in to make sure that family and that child has a smoother, more supported journey and leads the best life they can.

“I’m a parent who has probably experienced 95% of the system but the real power of PEGIS and why it’s unique is that it’s parents working together with other parents.”

Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year nominee – Ada Haywood BEM 

Former potbank worker Ada Haywood BEM has raised more than £1.4million for Cancer Research UK during decades of fundraising.

The 71-year-old, who made clay handles at Steelite for 32 years, organises an annual Pink Tie Ball and can often be found collecting money in supermarkets.

She still gets up at 5.30am to attend business networking meetings to promote her charity work and her loyal supporters ensure tickets for her ball are usually sold out within days.

In 2018 Ada was awarded the British Empire Medal and in 2022 she was a baton carrier for the Queen’s Baton Relay despite having a broken shoulder.

Cancer Research UK has named a room in its London HQ in honour of Ada and her late husband.

“I don’t do it for these awards,” she said. “I do it because I love it and I love driving people crazy with it. It’s a 24/7 thing for me. I even do it in my sleep.

“I’m sure people give me money to get rid of me. They think ‘it’s her again’ and ‘give her something and she’ll go away’.”

Ada, from Clayton in Newcastle-under-Lyme, started her fundraising after a neighbour’s wife died from breast cancer at the age of 35.

“We set up a committee but it was only me and it’s still only me. Because it’s voluntary nobody else wants to do it.”

Ada also fundraises in honour of her late husband, Peter, who had been determined that she should continue after his death.

She said: “Peter was the most amazing man. He wanted me to carry on, not to stop. If I don’t do it nobody will do it. I can’t give up.”

Ada has been nominated as a Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year in the Your Heroes Awards by Nigel Howle, who knows Ada through business networking meetings.

He said: “Ada is a fundraising phenomenon. She gets up at 5.30am every Thursday and Friday to attend BNI business networking meetings to promote her efforts.

“It’s fair to say that business networking friends are in awe of Ada and regularly rally round to support her efforts.”

Ada’s next Pink Tie Ball will be at the DoubleTree by Hilton at Festival Park on September 16.

Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year nominee – Steve Harding

Former heroin addict and alcoholic Steve Harding attempted suicide four times and says he would ‘just take anything to escape life’.

But now the 50-year-old builder is clean, sober and using his experiences to help other people – including teaching his bricklaying skills to people struggling with their mental health.

Steve, who was brought up in Mow Cop and now lives in Burslem, has trained as a mentor and volunteers with organisations including Expert Citizens and Stoke Recovery Service. He’s also used his bricklaying skills to support British Ceramics Biennial projects.

“I’ve always worked and have been in the building trade since I was 15,” said Steve. “I used to go out for a drink every evening and slipped into taking recreational drugs. That became an addiction to heroin and when I stopped using drugs I became an alcoholic. I’d just take anything to escape life.”

For decades he continued working despite his addictions until he says ‘it all became a bit too much’.

He attempted suicide four times, had to be resuscitated three times and on the final time was told by a paramedic that he was lucky to still be alive.

“I thought I must have a purpose,” he said. “I gave up on giving up. I thought that suicide isn’t working so I’d better make the most of life. When I started doing good things, good things started happening to me.”

Steve says his epiphany also coincided with visiting his grandad’s grave at St Thomas’s Church in Mow Cop and meeting people at the church which he says was ‘the first time in my life I have ever met kind people.’

He spent 16 weeks in rehab where he learnt the tools that proved enough to pull himself out of what he calls ‘a four month blip’ during lockdown.

Steve has been nominated as a Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year in the Your Heroes Awards by Philip Parkes, network coordinator of Expert Citizens.

Philip said: “Steve has shown personal fortitude by overcoming his own addiction and poor mental health which has, at times, been significantly challenging for him. Now he volunteers as a peer mentor supporting people who are on their own recovery journeys.

“He has proven to be someone they can count on, never failing to show up and do his absolute best for them and for Expert Citizens.

“He has worked on several projects for Expert Citizens in collaboration with Staffordshire University, Keele University and the Health Research Authority as well as Stoke-on-Trent City Council.

“He has undertaken his AET award in education and training because he has a desire to teach brick laying to people with experiences of addiction, homelessness and poor mental health to provide a positive social environment and meaningful engagement for those on a journey to a better life.

“Steve is always positive and shares his positivity with everyone he meets. He never shies away from a challenge and has shone at public speaking events, always with the mindset of helping others at the heat of everything he does.”

Lee Dale of Expert Citizens supported the nomination and said: “His positive outlook on recovery always shines through and the effect this has on customers who may find it difficult to engage with traditional support services is phenomenal.

“I’m so proud of Steve and his personal recovery journey from where he was to the person he is today. I’ve been managing Steve as a peer mentor for over 12 months now in what is a very challenging social climate, working alongside the most stigmatised and marginalised groups of people.

“Steve recognises how socially isolating addiction to drugs and alcohol can be and will always reach out to customers on the level they are currently at, always aiming to reconnect people back into community activities and things most of us take for granted.

“Steve has been instrumental in the development of a community here at Expert Citizens, creating a beacon of light for all stuck in the cycle of reoccurring homelessness, addiction and poor mental health.”

Steve said: “I don’t feel very deserving of an award but it’s nice to be recognised for the things that you do. I’m thankful to Expert Citizens and all those who’ve supported me on my journey.

“It makes me wonder how many more people struggle with their mental health and addiction but seem to function and hold down a ‘normal’ life.”

Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year nominee – Suzanne Bradley

Mum-of-two Suzanne Bradley was left disabled after contracting a rare neurological condition during the pandemic yet she continues to work full-time, fundraises for charity and volunteers for community organisations.

The 42-year-old spent more than five weeks in hospital after being temporarily paralysed by Idiopathic Transverse Myelitis. There is a one in a million chance of contracting the incurable disease.

“It came out of nowhere,” said Suzanne, from Blythe Bridge. “I’d been running and walking in the morning and by the afternoon I couldn’t walk and had lost the use of my bowel and bladder. Within three hours I was paralysed.

“I was unable to move and spent five weeks and three days in hospital. I couldn’t even move my big toe.”

Suzanne then went on to develop lymphoedema which has caused swelling throughout her body.

Now back at work full-time as a Health, Safety and Environmental Advisor for Unitas Stoke-on-Trent, Suzanne is able to walk with the aid of two sticks but has scarring to her spine and has been told she will never make a full recovery.

Determined to keep going and to set a good example for her children, aged 15 and 17, she has not just continued with her volunteering and fundraising activities she’s added to them.

Suzanne is a trustee and fundraising officer for Stoke Amateur Theatre Society where she raises money to enable children and adults to stage musicals and pantomimes.

She gives school talks about working in the construction industry and to encourage people with disabilities to pursue their chosen career.

She has also been a Girl Guide leader and has raised around £1,000 for charities including the HUBB Foundation, Dougie Mac and Macmillan.

Suzanne has been nominated as a Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year in the Your Heroes Awards by Emma Starkey.

Emma said: “Suzanne is an inspirational individual. In May 2020 Suzanne was paralysed and has been fighting throughout with a rare neurological condition called Idiopathic Transverse Myelitis along with Lymphoedema and dyslexia.

“Suzanne has limited mobility and even though she went through a life changing condition which resulted in her being disabled she still went on to raise money for the Hubb Foundation and Dougie Mac during this period.

“She is a caring individual who puts others needs above her own. She also attends her Transverse Myelitis Group in Derby and is a Stoke City Supporter.

“To show how committed she is to enabling support and to how to cope when a tragic event happens she then became a trustee member and also the fundraising Officer for Stoke Amateur Theatre Society where she supports the charity to enable children and adults to perform shows.”

Suzanne said she was determined to keep going despite her poor health.

“At times I could have said I’ve had enough. That would be easy to do but it’s not me. I’ve always been mentally strong.

“I’m coming to terms with my health. I’m living my life and will still do the things that I want to do, it just takes more planning now. It’s about the mental mindset of how you change with life-changing conditions.”

Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year nominee – Natasha Gratton

When former care manager Natasha Gratton set up a ‘small community group’ in 2018 her aim was to help a few vulnerable adults.

Helping Angels and Project Indi now work with around 250 people every week and mum-of-two Natasha has given up her day job to run it full-time.

The group operates out of the former Sneyd Green Community Hall, now known as the Indi Club, operates Café Indi out of The Pavilion at Burslem Park and works in the Lodge at Hanley Park.

The café, which is open to the public, was set up to provide inclusive work placements for members of the group and help some to move on to jobs in the community.

Mum-of-two Natasha, from Milton, has always worked in social care and specialised in working with people with autism and complex needs.

She said: “What I do now is a 90 hours a week job. It’s a really rewarding job but it’s stressful sometimes because every single day I have to fight for people to get what I feel they should be naturally given.”

Natasha has been nominated as a Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year in the Your Heroes Awards by Chloe Keogh. Helping Angels and Project Indi has also been nominated as Community Group of the Year.

Chloe said: “Natasha is a truly inspirational charity champion. She leads local charity Helping Angels which has gone from strength to strength since its launch.

“The charity supports vulnerable adults and children and focuses on giving them confidence and independence.

“They recently refurbished and reopened the cafe in Burslem Park, which has opportunities for inclusive work placements to help build confidence and grow independence.

“There are also lots of activities running each week out of Sneyd Green Community Centre, now known as The Indi Club, supporting the local community and charity members.

“Natasha leads all of this, working so hard to make the charity a success as well as raising a young family. I am so proud to call her my friend and she inspires me and those around her every day.”

Natasha said: “It’s really heartfelt to be nominated for a Your Heroes Award. It’s made me really emotional.”

Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year nominee – Antony Capostagno

Antony Capostagno is dedicated to improving the lives of the people of Biddulph.

The 55-year-old has been the manager of Biddulph Youth and Community Zone for more than 25 years and regularly goes above and beyond the call of duty to help the local community.

He and his team of four staff and 30 volunteers run a wide range of projects including youth

groups that attract around 100 young people for each session, inclusion groups and food projects to support people in need. They also provide information, guidance and aim to help people of any age.

There is a community garden, run entirely by volunteers, that helps with wellbeing and grows food to support anyone who needs it.

The community garden and centre were hit by an arson attack in May but the local community rallied around to make repairs.

Antony has been nominated as a Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year in the Your Heroes Awards by Nicola Stanway.

Nicola said: “Ant is the pillar of Biddulph community. He has worked tirelessly for over 25 years to improve the lives of so many people including children and families in Biddulph.

“He works permanently at Biddulph Youth and Community Zone, dedicating evenings and weekends to support the many people who use the facilities.

“He never asks for any thanks or gets any credit for what he has achieved over the many years.
He’s a real hero in Biddulph and a true unsung hero.”

Antony said: “I’ve never been nominated for anything like this before. I enjoy what I do and that’s why I keep doing it, but it’s quite nice to hear that people do appreciate what you do. It was quite overwhelming to hear the words that Nicola said about me.”

Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year nominee – Nicola Middleton

From putting together Christmas food hampers for people in need to organising fundraising events, Nicola Middleton is so dedicated to helping others that her workplace has made her its charity champion.

The 52-year-old administrator, from Bentilee, has organised a danceathon, bake off competition and charity stalls during her 15 months working for Newcastle-based Brampton Recruitment.

Nicola has been nominated as a Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year in the Your Heroes Awards by her boss, Claire Leigh.

Claire said: “Nicola is Brampton Recruitment’s charity champion. It was her idea, dedication and hard work at Christmas 2022 that we provided elderly people within the community with hampers of food. With the team’s input and support we managed to raise more than £1,000 which meant we could supply substantial hampers to 50 households within the Stoke on Trent and Newcastle area.

“Nicola worked tirelessly to source the right products and to speak to local businesses for donations of products or monetary donations. She also added blankets, mugs and Christmas treats to the hampers which were then delivered before the Christmas holidays.

“Nicola is now our charity champion for this year and we are working with The Peter Pan Centre. So far this year she has organised a charity danceathon, a company bake off competition and attended and supported the Peter Pan Summer Fete with a stall of sensory toys which she sourced and sold to raise money for the centre. She is currently planning a charity quiz night to raise more much-needed funds.

“Nicola does all of this with passion, enthusiasm and a bubbly and playful nature. She really is a star. She has a heart of gold. Once I saw this award I knew immediately that I had to make you aware of her as she really does deserve a special mention.”

Nicola said: “Hearing that I’ve been nominated for a Your Heroes Award has brought tears to my eyes. To me this is just something that I do, it’s just my nature. I’m always giving things and helping people. It’s nice when someone recognises it.”

Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year nominee – Tom Wilson

Bullseye – Tom Wilson has raised more than £66,500 for charity by staging darts events.

The 32-year-old from Longton holds his fundraisers at venues across Staffordshire and Cheshire in aid of Prostate Cancer UK.

He began his fundraising in 2017 after people close to him were diagnosed with the

condition and has discovered that it not only supports a good cause it helps with his own health conditions too.

“I have autism and it’s good for me to get out and meet new people,” said Tom. ‘It’s good for my mental health too. I love meeting new people in the darts family.”

“I started raising money through darts competitions and then by selling darts memorabilia and it’s gone on from there.

“One of my friends had prostate cancer, my uncle had it and a lot of the top darts players are supporting it as a cause.”

Tom has been nominated as a Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year in the Your Heroes Awards by some of the people he’s met on his fundraising journey.

Sarah Mountford said: “Tom’s commitment is never ending. His ceaseless drive to fund raise and the targets he sets for himself to aid the prostate cancer cause is absolutely amazing , He’s a young man who puts others’ needs before his own. He pushes himself outside of his comfort zone. He is the most dedicated volunteer.”

John Harvey said: “He spends every spare minute on his quest and is highly thought of in the darting community. I met Tom three years ago and the total focus on his charity is amazing.”

Kath Salt said: “He works so hard for such a good cause. He is an amazing hero.”

Tom added: “It’s a nice feeling to be nominated for a Your Heroes Award. I’m quite surprised.”

Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year nominee – Wendy Jones

Wendy Jones has been nominated as a Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year in the Your Heroes Awards.

Wendy has been volunteering with grassroots football in Stoke-on-Trent for decades.

She began as a parent on the sidelines more than 25 years, ago supporting her own son. As he grew up and is now aged 34 she continued to support other families and their children in the beautiful game of football.

Keen to stay behind the scenes, she has always shied away from any limelight but her passion to make football affordable for every child has had her working tirelessly in the background for years.

She set up FC Hanley at Abbey Lane in Bucknall, a non-profitmaking training facility that welcomes and encourages every child as they enter the game. It gives every child access to professional coaching, kit and accessories regardless of their family circumstances and all too often gives personal, financial and emotional support to some less fortunate families.

The amount of personal time and dedication she has given to securing grants and funding to build the coaching school and deliver affordable fun-filled football for children is unmeasurable and her drive and passion is nothing less than remarkable.

Due to this FC Hanley has now grown to have many football pitches, facilities and parking with many grassroots teams of all ages playing out of the venue. Her passion to keep football affordable and non-profit for these teams has seen her tirelessly battle against inflated fees and costs.

Her vision is now reality – football is affordable at FC Hanley for every child!

Unfortunately over the past couple of weeks Wendy has become terminally ill and those close to her want to see her acknowledged for her amazing work and dedication so…please, please, please help us to acknowledge her  and the amazing things she’s achieved.

A new annual football tournament, The Wendy Jones Welcome to Football Tournament, will be held at FC Hanley on Sunday, September 3, 2023. Every brand new under-7s team registered with the North Staffs Junior Youth League will take part in a tournament for a trophy.

Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year nominee – Ashley Mellor

Musical director Ashley Mellor has been told he should be prescribed by the NHS for the joy he brings into people’s lives.

The 31-year-old, from Newcastle-under-Lyme, is the founder and director of The Staffordshire Choirs Association.

The association, which Ashley established in 2016, now runs 30 choirs in the county

including three non-auditioned community choirs designed to open the joys of singing up to anyone.

Ashley, who trained at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and was formerly the organist at Tewkesbury Abbey, is the musical director of around 20 of the association’s choirs.

He said: “I just wanted to bring people together through music by creating a network to offer care and support. I purposefully wanted to cater for different levels of ability and different age groups.”

The Staffordshire Choirs Association has been nominated as a Community Group of the Year and Ashley has been nominated as a Charity Champion of Volunteer of the Year in the Your Heroes Awards by Ashley’s sister, Amy.

She said: “Ashley has put together a community of singers that promotes and believes in the benefits of singing for both the joy it brings and the mental health and emotional wellbeing benefits.

“Ashley truly believes in the power of music and how it can completely change, and sometimes save, lives. He has the most wonderful character that can blow the blues away in just 90 minutes and transform over 200 voices into what is the most glorious uplifting music.

“Ashley has been described as an irreplaceable joy in people’s lives and has regularly been told he should be prescribed by the NHS for mental health.  He is not just a hero to me, his little sister, but a hero to over 200 people who come together every week.”

Ashley added: “I feel quite honoured to have been thought about for a Your Heroes Award. I do what I do because I love it and I love helping other people.”

Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year nominee – Sarah Lyn Turner

Sarah Lyn Turner joined 85th Milton Scout Group at the age of six and 26 years later she’s still there – but now as a leader.

A graphic designer for Caudwell Children during the day, Sarah Lyn spends much of her free time preparing activities for her scout group or leading the youngsters on adventures including a recent trip to Holland.

Sarah Lyn, from Weston Coyney, has been nominated as a Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year in the Your Heroes Awards by Megan Ellerton.

Megan said: “Just before the lockdown Sarah took over 85th Milton Scout Group as an acting group scout leader. During the lockdown Sarah ran sessions three nights a week over Zoom providing badges, fun and activities for the children of our scout groups.

“She took on new responsibilities and even new children from the local community to give them a sense of normality. Sarah provided support for all of our scout group including the leaders and parents.

“Sarah has been volunteering for at least 15 years with the scouts and has always been there for every single person that steps foot through our scout hut doors.

“After lockdown, Sarah opened a new section to our scout group called squirrels which offers four to six-year-olds the opportunity to gain badges and have fun.

“Even whilst running 85th Milton Scout Group Sarah provided challenges for all groups to support the local community by making food bank donations, collecting items for a local care home, The Macari shelter, Ukraine and many more.

“Sarah continues to be acting group scout leader and is an inspiration to everyone who is involved with 85th Milton Scout Group.”

Sarah Lyn, aged 32, said she enjoyed being a Scout herself because of the opportunities and activities it offered her but that her motivation for being a leader is seeing the change the group makes in the lives of young people.

She said: “I focus on trying to get to know the kids as individuals and aim to help them to develop through activities. I try to ensure we do activities they wouldn’t normally get the chance to do at home.

“It’s really nice to see the change in children and the confidence that they get from it. “

She added: “It’s lovely to be nominated for a Your Heroes Award but I couldn’t do what I do without all of the other leaders. I do quite a unique programme but I couldn’t do half of that without them so this nomination is for them as well.”

Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year – Ann Grainger

Ann Grainger has dedicated her life to tackling human trafficking and modern slavery after her Staffordshire University dissertation opened her eyes to the scale of the problem.

She founded a charity, Voice of Hope, has gone on to deliver awareness sessions for 20,000 practitioners around Stoke-on-Trent and delivered school sessions to more than 4,000 young people in the past 18 months in partnership with Staffordshire Police.

“William Wilberforce said that you can look the other way but you’ll never again say that you didn’t know, and that’s how I feel about human trafficking and modern slavery,” said Ann. “Once I realised how big this is I couldn’t walk away.”

Ann, from Milton, is now CEO of the Stoke-on-Trent charity that has a team of three staff and is recruiting for a fourth.

She set up Voice of Hope in 2015 which coincided with Staffordshire Police establishing its modern slavery division, so they collaborated from the very beginning.

Ann and her team raise awareness amongst practitioners, work with young people, signpost people reporting modern slavery or human trafficking and even step in to help people who have been taken to safe houses because they are believed to be the victims of modern slavery or human trafficking. They have now started to raise awareness of the criminal exploitation of homeless people.

“It was all because of a news article on TV,” said Ann. “I thought this can’t be happening today in the 21st Century. At the time it was quite a rare subject and it intrigued me. When I researched what was going on in our sophisticated world I couldn’t believe it.

“I thought if this is growing at such a pace I have to do something. My grandson was born around the same time and I thought what a world he’ll grow up in if someone doesn’t stand up and raise their voice. That’s where the name of the charity came from.”

Ann has been nominated as a Charity Champion of Volunteer of the Year and Voice of Hope has been nominated as a Community Group of the Year in the Your Heroes Awards.

Making the nomination Melissa Dickinson said: “Ann had a vision and recognised that modern slavery and human trafficking was an increasing crime that was consistently increasing in our local area. Working tirelessly to establish the charity, Ann has successfully grown the charity to what it is today.

“It could be argued that Ann is doing her job, but what makes a difference is the way Ann does, the compassion she shows for the people she supports and her commitment to the charity. That’s why I believe Ann and the charity deserve a nomination.”

Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year nominee – Marc Cotterill

A man whose lung function once dropped to just 29% because of Cystic Fibrosis faced an endurance challenge of a lifetime to raise worldwide awareness of the drug that changed his life.

Marc Cotterill from Cheadle was born with CF, a progressive disease that left him feeling like he was ‘suffocating in his own body’.

The 41-year-old’s condition was so severe he suffered a collapsed lung and was facing vascular surgery and longer-term the prospect of a lung transplant until, during lockdown, he was granted access to a lifesaving drug called Kaftrio, which is now available through the NHS.

Marc’s lung function is now back up to 76% which means he can comfortably run for 5k and hit the gym harder than he has in years.

In June the business architect teamed up with four friends (Craig Stanway from Stone, Ryan Talbot from Biddulph and Pete Oakden from Edinburgh) to take part in an 80-mile endurance challenge, paddleboarding across shark-infested waters from the Bahamas to the Florida mainland.

Marc has so far raised around £18,500 for CF charities but, most importantly for him, raised awareness of the drug that changed his life and the health inequalities that prevent it from being available for all.

Marc said: “I was used to experiencing frequent chest infections and relied heavily on IV antibiotics every few months. This treatment caused major vascular issues, making IV access a nightmare and I was completely aware I was running out of options.

“That was until I got the call that confirmed I had been granted access to Kaftrio. It is a miracle drug, I took my first dose in my car at 11am on March 3, 2020 and the transformation happened overnight.

“The next day, I woke with no cough for the first time in over 20 years. I had become used to waking and coughing so violently I would begin each day exhausted, with sore lungs and a severe headache. After a couple of days, I was getting up at 6am to work out in the garden before work or my other CF treatments. Previously I would have needed to do at least an hour of treatments before I could even attempt to face the day.

“Before Kaftrio, CF was working against me, impacting every part of my body, but that has now been thrown into reverse. Because my lungs are working much more efficiently, my health and quality of life have dramatically improved.

“My airways are no longer clogged up with rubbish so I’m not breathless and my appetite has gone through the roof. The increase in food leads to more energy, which means I can work out like never before. That’s why my amazing mates and I jumped at the chance to embark on this challenge.

“It was an opportunity to demonstrate the power of Kaftrio and I feel it is my duty to do what I can to help others who currently have no hope of gaining access to this drug – without it, many people with CF all over the world will die – that’s the reality.”

Without Kaftrio Marc knows that his life expectancy would be considerably shorter. He has documented his experiences on social media and has regularly received desperate messages from people with cystic fibrosis who live in poorer countries and have no hope of accessing the drug.

Marc has been nominated as a Charity Champion or Volunteer of the Year in the Your Heroes Awards by Su Wright-Lewis.

Su said: “Marc is a beacon of hope and positivity for CF sufferers and their families and his inspirational speaking is eye-opening, emotional and educational. His tireless campaign deserves recognition which will encourage others to embody his motto of ‘do something epic.”