EVERYDAY heroes were full of pride as they walked away with awards in recognition of their hard work, bravery and dedication to others at The News We Can Do It awards.
The event, which is in its 12th year, celebrates the people who go the extra mile for people in their communities.
Ten people clinched a trophy in 10 different categories: Best School, Best Volunteer, Personal Achievement, Best Business, Service with a Smile, Best Garden, Best Street, Spirit of Youth, Best Art/Community Project and Care of the Environment.
Guests were also treated to stunning performances from opera singer Jennifer Parker-Lummis, who was the winner of The News Instant Star talent contest this year, Take That tribute act Take That 2, who headlined the show, and local dance group The Three Js.
The crowd were also given an insight into some of the inspiring stories covered by The News in the last 12 months, including the 200th birthday of Portsmouth-born writer Charles Dickens, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the Olympic Games.
The News features editor Simon Toft told the audience: ‘As a newspaper we have a duty to report the bad news.
‘But we wanted to make sure the good news stories were not overlooked and, more importantly, that the people behind these stories were recognised.’
Jessica Ridge, 12, of Hambledon, won the Spirit Of Youth award because she has raised nearly £22,000 for worthy causes in just four years. She is pictured on the front page with mum Lara.
The schoolgirl was moved to help others after she heard about the plight of Jade Goody.
Clutching her award with pride, she said: ‘It feels really cool to win this. It’s nice to be chosen out of all the other nominees.
‘The work I’ve done for charity doesn’t stop here. Next year I either want to raise money for a brain tumour charity or a children’s cancer ward at Southampton General Hospital.’
Lara, 42, said: ‘I’m so proud of Jessica.’
Wave 105 breakfast presenter Steve Power, who hosted the show, said: It’s such a humbling experience to be part of the We Can Do It awards, which never fails to deliver stories of inspiration and bravery. Every year I am astounded by actions of bravery and kindness and it really goes to show what a community we have in and around Portsmouth.
‘Everyone here tonight should be treated as a winner.’
The roll of honour
Best Street (sponsored by Colas)
Winner: Nathan Coleman, who lives in Tukes Avenue, Gosport, stopped a fire from starting in his neighbour Gwen Thornhill’s house after he saw smoke coming out of the window.
Runner-up: Eastney Road, Eastney. Neighbours rallied together to save their local pub The Fort Cumberland Arms from closure. They persuaded 600 people to sign a petition against it being converted into a children’s nursery.
Personal achievement (sponsored by Fairways Care)
Winner: Emma Hobbs, 28, saved the life of Paulsgrove Primary schoolgirl Tamia Feltham after her heart stopped beating during a carol service at a care home in Paulsgrove.
Runner-up: Phil Carpenter, 31, of Copnor, climbed 5,550ft up Kala Patthar, near Mount Everest, in memory of his best friend David James Shipp, 27, who died last year.
Best Volunteer (sponsored by Fairways Care)
Winner: Stacy Lunn. Stacy, of North End, has been a volunteer for Chernobyl Lifeline Charity’s Portsmouth and Hayling Island Link for six years. As family liaison officer, she helps to organise the stays for deprived children and takes some of them in herself.
Runner-up: Nicola Laing is a volunteer at The Kings Theatre. Last Christmas she worked 300 hours – an incredible 44 out of 45 pantos. She managed to do this despite being a mum-of-four with a child who has cerebral palsy.
Care of the Environment (sponsored by The Southern Co-operative)
Winner: Southsea Infant School. Staff and pupils at Southsea Infant School work hard to be environmentally friendly – whether it’s by recycling or composting, walking to school, or making sure all the lights are turned off. Their hard work paid off when they became the first school in Portsmouth to be presented with the Eco Schools green flag award.
Runner-up: McDonald’s. A team of employees from McDonald’s stores across Portsmouth cleaned up Whale Island as part of the company’s Love Where You Live campaign.
Best School (sponsored by Lucketts Travel)
Winner: Charter Academy in Southsea celebrated becoming the first school in the city to have every one of its pupils signed up to the library. Pupils were issued with cards, giving them access to any Portsmouth City Council library.
Runner-up: Crofton Hammond Junior School – pupils, parents and staff at the Stubbington school celebrated after being rated outstanding in every category by Ofsted. Inspectors heaped praise on the school because it was an improvement on its last inspection which saw the school receive a good rating overall.
Spirit of Youth (sponsored by Astrium)
Winner: Jessica Ridge, 12, of Hambledon, has raised nearly £21,000 for charities in four years after hearing about the plight of Jade Goody.
Runner-up: Maddie Martin, eight, of Leigh Park, has spina bifida and has to use a wheelchair to get around - but that didn’t stop her using every last bit of energy she had to get out of her chair to walk the last 100 yards of the Bupa Great South Run.
Best Garden (sponsored by Garsons)
Winner: Portsea Community Garden. Guerilla gardener Eryk Rose, of Portsea, and other members of his community have transformed an old patch of land in the area into a thriving communal garden.
Runner-up: When Chris Allen, 64, moved into her flat in West Leigh 14 years ago the back garden was drab and full of sheds and washing lines. Now she has turned the communal garden turned into a riot of colour with more than 500 pots bursting with flowers and plants.
Service with a Smile (sponsored by Titchfield Dental Health)
Winner: Chandrakant Patel and his wife Jyotika, who run a chemist business in Copnor Road, Copnor, supported their customer Pauline Fauset when her father George Wyles was diagnosed with cancer. When George found it difficult to get out and about, the couple made sure his medication was delivered to his house. And on days when Pauline popped into the store for supplies, they took the time to chat to her and make her feel better.
Runner-up: Diane Martin, who runs Echoes Community Care, in Havant, has already won a Going the Distance Award for going beyond the call of duty. For the past five years, she has arranged social afternoons for care users in her spare time so they can get together, have a chat and have a good time. And last Christmas Diane and her team of 16 senior staff organised a huge tea party at The Aston Rooms in Waterlooville.
Best Business (sponsored by the Pizza House restaurant)
Winner: Granny Jan’s Cupcakes. Jan Harding, of Fareham, donates every penny from her cupcake business to Macmillan Cancer Support because her niece Louise Cowdery was diagnosed with breast cancer. Jan makes cakes for any kind of occasion including weddings, christenings, and birthday parties. This year she raised £1,650 for Macmillan.
Runner-up: A team of solicitors from Larcomes in North End took part in a Just Walk charity, walking event from Goodwood Racecourse to Arundel and back to raise money for the Hampshire Asbestos Support and Awareness Group.
Best art / community project (sponsored by Wave105)
Winner: Fareham Art Group: An original patchwork painting of a teddy bear was donated by Fareham Art Group to a support centre for seriously ill children and adults. Members each painted a square of Big Ted, before fitting the individual sections together. They donated the picture to the Rainbow Centre in Palmerston Drive, Fareham, which supports children with cerebral palsy and adults who have suffered a stroke, MS or Parkinson’s disease.
Runner-up: Oliver Merkin. Oliver is a Southsea artist who painted a huge mural on the front of empty shops near the entrance to Cosham in a bid to brighten up the area. Nearby shops also got the chance to submit their ideas for the project, which was paid for by housing association First Wessex.
Awards stories in The News today and coverage all this week of the winners.