The First Unsung Heroes Awards Proves the Voluntary Sector is Vibrant across the Wakefield District

The first Unsung Heroes Awards Dinner was held at the Unity Works on the 9th June 2017. The event was hosted by Krista Ackroyd who welcomed 200 guests including Sir Rodney Walker, Mayor Counsellor Kevin Barker and Mayoress Kirsty Barker of Wakefield, Dr Ingrid Roscoe representing the Queen as Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire, Mr David Dinmore Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Yorkshire and Adeem Younis Chairman of the Penny Appeal.

Having had over 200 nominations the panel had the very difficult task of whittling these down and after great deliberation managed to cut it down to a shortlist of 13 finalists. Each of these were then filmed over the weeks prior to the event to highlight the amazing work that they do. After consideration it was felt that as these awards were for the whole of the Wakefield district the Wakefield public should have its say and so a request went out via the Wakefield Express and Ridings FM for local people to vote for the person they felt had the biggest impact on local needs and over 1000 votes were received in a matter of a few days. On the night the films were shown to an emotional audience who were clearly moved, some to tears by the Unsung Heroes story’s.

The panel on the night felt that all the shortlisted nominees were winners in their own right but awarded trophies to the following Sharon Firth, Kaz Williams, Steve Greatorex, Issac O’Connor and Ted Helliwell, Wakefield Community Foundation’s panel felt

  • Kaz Williams of Children of Normanton Support Team has done amazing work with the help of her team supporting children from all backgrounds over many years.
  • Sharon Firth has spent the past 26 years creating awareness of autism and supporting over 100 families with this condition. 
  • Stephen Greatorex and his team have for many years empowered less able people to take part in sport, the audience was surprised to learn that we have two para Olympians within the district and one 15 years old double amputee competing at international level all originally coached by Steve.
  • Issac O’Connor the youngest nominee stood out in an age where young people don’t naturally volunteer and he has been working with his peers at Rycroft Youth Club for a number of years.
  • Ted Helliwell now 84 and still volunteering at Second Chance Headway Wakefield has helped many people with life changing brain injuries in the Wakefield area for over 20 years.

Following a public vote, a clear favourite emerged in Sarah Padden. Sarah opens her café Café 19 on a regular basis to the many homeless in Wakefield providing them with food and clothing and emotional support, she also goes out every night delivering hot meals and supplies to those in need.

To wrap up the evening Wakefield Community Foundation outlined its future plans, which includes grants to help address the needs of elderly people in isolation and announced a new Youth Social Action Fund. Unsung Heroes was such a success that these awards are going to be made an annual event and the date for next year is 8th June 2018.


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