THE family and friends of Joe Gower were heartbroken when the five-year-old died of a brain tumour last year.
But it was all smiles on stage for his mum and teachers as Alverstoke Infant School won the Best School category at The News’ We Can Do It awards.
Hundreds of people turned up to the highly-anticipated awards, held at the Kings Theatre in Southsea, which highlights all the good work of people in the community.
The story of Alverstoke Infants in Gosport, was just one of the many heart-warming stories told throughout the show.
The school was in a tough category against five other nominees who had raised money for charity or started new projects but came out on top after it raised £1,000 through a Wear a Hat Day in memory of pupil Joe.
Joe’s mum Elise, of Prince Alfred Street in Gosport, said: ‘From when Joe was diagnosed with his brain tumour we have had amazing support from his teachers who came to see him in hospital.
‘We had parents asking constantly how he was and I think this school deserved to win.
‘Everyone in the community came together to look after us.
‘But I was surprised when the school were announced as the winners because the other schools had done great events to be nominated. It was a tough category.’
The five-year-old was diagnosed in July last year.
He had surgery at Southampton General Hospital and chemotherapy treatment for the cancer but died on November 30.
Elise and Joe’s twin brother Jay were joined on stage to collect the award by Diane McEwan and Karen Dawson from the school as well as three of Joe’s classmates.
And it was an emotional moment for all those involved.
Elise added: ‘The school not only helped support us, they were great at supporting the children who had just lost a good friend and Jay who had just lost his brother.
‘They have been amazing with their emotional support. We will always be grateful to them.’
The youngsters were excited to go on stage to help get the award.
Jay said: ‘We were all a bit nervous about going on stage but excited too. It was fun getting it.’
Karen, a Year 1 teacher, added: ‘We never expected to win it. It is a complete shock but it is lovely.
‘It was such a warm feeling when we had our name called. The whole school community came together to show their support for the Gower family.’
Heroes honoured at We Can Do It awards
From people overcoming personal challenges to schools raising money for charity, this year’s We Can Do It awards truly showed off the unsung heroes of the community.
Hundreds of people turned up to the awards yesterday afternoon at the Kings Theatre in Southsea to show their support for the 60 nominees.
And there was lots of clapping and cheering as each runner-up and winner went up on stage to collect their awards for all their hard work.
With 10 categories, ranging from Best Business to Best Garden, the events are The News’ way to highlight all the good things people in our community do.
It gives the unsung heroes the chance to take centre stage and be recognised for their selfless work.
Winners of all ages were acknowledged from Ron Jacobs, winner of the Best Volunteer who has been in the Scouts for more than 50 years, to Sophie Mortimore who won our Spirit of Youth category.
The 14-year-old was diagnosed with idiopathic scoliosis but overcame this to run three miles after a 10-hour operation.
But all the nominations had incredible stories which have been picked out throughout the year for the We Can Do It awards.
Mark Waldron, editor of The News, said: ‘The awards were fantastic. We had some great performances and awards and I hope we didn’t let anyone down.
‘The We Can Do It awards are the ones that touch our community and touch our readers the most which is fantastic.
‘It’s important that we do take a step back and applaud the people who make our communities a better place to live in.’
The afternoon was topped off with fantastic entertainment from Portsmouth Grammar School, the Boyle O-Dowda Irish Dance Academy and Instant Star winner Lucy Simmonds.
Portsmouth Grammar School kicked off the show with two songs from Kiss Me Kate before the girls from the Irish dance school performed before the interval. Nine-year-old Lucy rounded off the awards with her incredible renditions of At Last by Etta James and Let It Go from Disney film Frozen.
Winner: Stephen Ayling
Runner-up: Dave Waterman
Winner: Ideal Window Solutions
Runner-up: Luvvit Want It
BEST ART/COMMUNITY PROJECT
Winner: Feel Yourself Knitting Project
Runner-up: Making Space Project
SPIRIT OF YOUTH
Winner: Sophie Mortimore
Runners-up: Liam and Callum Robinson
Winner: Ron Jacobs
Runner-up: Malcolm Garbutt
CARE OF THE ENVIRONMENT
Winner: Flame Youth Group
Runner-up: Clare Seek
Winner: Alverstoke Infant School
Runner-up: St Alban’s Primary School
Winner: Allen’s Road
Runners-up: Rowlands Castle
Winner: Wicor Primary School
Runners-up: Fareham Borough Coucil
SERVICE WITH A SMILE
Winner: Kasia Urban
Runners-up: Southsea Coffee Company