Everyday Heroes Awards: Look at these brilliant Bedfordians

All of Bedford's Everyday Heroes 2021
All of Bedford’s Everyday Heroes 2021

This is them, the Bedford Independent Everyday Heroes Award winners 2021. They all do something special, something amazing that makes Bedford Borough brilliant and we’re so proud to introduce them to you.

Whatever it is they are involved in, from charity to sport, music to education, each and every person who attended last night’s award ceremony at The Quarry Theatre at St. Luke’s deserves our thanks.

Of course, the awards would not have been possible without our partner The Harpur Trust, and the event would not have been possible without our hosts Bedford School and venue sponsor The Quarry Theatre.

And the judging would not have been so considered without the category sponsors who also joined others to take their time and deliberate over who would be the overall winners.

Bedford is a fantastic place to live, and there are so many intriguing and curious people living next door, up the road or in the next village, it’s important we hold these events so you can find out who they are.

Thank you to all who nominated someone in the awards, and well done to those nominees and all those who were named Highly Commended or overall winners, our Borough is brilliant thanks to you.

These people make Bedford brilliant

Click or tap on the category to see who won
Volunteer of the Year Excellence in Education Raising the Profile of the Town (Individual)
Raising the Profile of the Town (Team) Fundraiser of the Year (Individual) Fundraiser of the Year (Team)
Young Achiever (Individual) Unsung Hero Covid Hero (Individual)
Covid Hero (Team)


sponsored by The Harpur Trust

Winner: Charan Sekhon MBE

Volunteer winner was Charan Sekhon MBE who was was unable to attend so his award was collected on his behalf with Lucy Bardner from The Harpur Trust.
Volunteer winner was Charan Sekhon MBE who was was unable to attend so his award was collected on his behalf with Lucy Bardner from The Harpur Trust.

Why they won: Charan has given exceptional voluntary service to all communities of Bedfordshire by helping and supporting the elderly, vulnerable, homeless, rough-sleepers and overseas students.

He is the chairman of SEVA Trust UK, which he founded to primarily work on educational projects helping disadvantaged youth and diverse communities.

SEVA Trust is run and managed by all volunteers without a single paid staff in the charity and led by Charan himself, despite his full-time job with the Environment Agency and his own family commitments.

It was Charan’s proposal to start COVID19 emergency community support projects to help our local communities and students who faced hardships due to COVID.

Charan worked day and night to set up SEVA Trust’s lead food hub in Bedford within just two days of the first UK wide lockdown.

Within the next few weeks, he played a leading role in setting up three more free food hubs in Bedford, Milton Keynes and Luton towns.

In addition to these four free food hubs, on behalf of SEVA Trust, Charan led in setting up collaborative projects with many other charities, community and faith groups to ensure we can act fast and reach out to more people and communities in need.

As well as helping raise over £15,000 for the trust, Charan alone has also delivered over 1000 food parcels and spent on average around 20 hours per week (mainly evenings and weekends) giving over 1000 hours of volunteer service in the past 12 months alone.

Highly Commended: Dr Kay Taylor

Dr Kay Taylor has undertaken the role of Chair of Trustees of the Bedfordshire and Northamptonshire MS Therapy Centre, in a totally voluntary capacity, for eight years.

In 2007 Kay joined the Board of Trustees and was elected Chair in 2014 at a time when nobody else was willing to take on the role.

Kay, who has MS herself and is a wheelchair user, devotes much of her time to the centre and does a fantastic job. The centre and its attendees have achieved so much under her guidance.

The other nominees:

  • Chelsea Zwetsloot
  • Dave Holt
  • Jean Goldsmith
  • Laura Fox
  • Lionel Toombs
  • Michael Wigg
  • Ravi Singh Gill
  • Sally Williams
  • Steve Eaton, Bedford and District Audio News

Excellence in Education

sponsored by Bedford School

Winner: Belinda Edgeworth

Excellence in Education Winner Belinda Edgeworth with James Hodgson from Bedford School
Excellence in Education Winner Belinda Edgeworth with James Hodgson from Bedford School

Why they won: Belinda’s nominator says she is one of the most selfless people they know. She has worked in education for 30+ years as a teaching assistant and a teacher, working with SEND children and has played a massive part in their lives.

She currently works with Down Syndrome children and she is loved by every child she works with, even shaping one boy into being able to write, concentrate and work at the level of his year 5 class.

She goes above and beyond for all children to help them get to where they need to be and always puts them first, often tutoring them for free after a long day at work.

She really is a one of a kind woman who deserves to be recognised.

Highly Commended: Rachael Rogan

Rachael and her team have put on a fantastic festival celebrating Children’s books, authors and learning for six years.

Her tireless work engages with schools, communities, libraries and educators, bringing as many people into this world as possible. Her mission is to help spread a love of books and a love of reading. Her infectious energy means she spreads this mission to everyone who works with her.

The other nominees:

  • Angela Costello (St Thomas More)
  • Bedfordshire Health and Care Academy
  • Carly Jones (Belle Etoile Academy of Dance)
  • Giancarlo Niro (St Thomas More)
  • Hannah Sandhu (St Thomas More)
  • Kirsten Bernard (St Thomas More)
  • Koron Cooper (Springfield Primary School)
  • Mariella Ragni (St Thomas More)
  • Nisha Vyas-Myall
  • Simon Petch (Putnoe Primary)

Raising the Profile of the Town (Individual)

sponsored by The Quarry at St. Lukes

Winner: Gareth Barber

Raising the Profile of the Town winner Gareth Barber with James Pharaoh from The Quarry Theatre at St Lukes
Raising the Profile of the Town winner Gareth Barber with James Pharaoh from The Quarry Theatre at St Lukes

Why they won: Gareth constantly raises the profile of the town through his involvement in live events through Pad Presents and also through being the owner of Esquires, an excellent music venue that brings people from far and wide.

Not only that but his ‘Bedford isn’t sh*t’ logo has a massive following both locally and whenever I’ve worn the t-shirts further afield.

Highly Commended: Mark Draper

Mark Draper has put Bedford on the map as a great destination for running thanks to his weekend racing festival.

With a fast flat course and lots of activities surrounding the races, it has become a highlight of Bedford’s events calendar – regardless of whether you’re taking part or not.

The other nominees:

  • Fizz Heseltine (Living It Up Events/Gig Buddies)
  • Anne Harnan (Taste Bedford)

Raising the Profile of the Town (Team)

sponsored by Bedford Radio

The winners, Bedford Ladies Tug of War team, with Martin Steers of Bedford RadioWinner: Bedford Ladies Tug of War team

Why they won: Bedford Ladies were established in the 1980’s and have, since then, won numerous national, UK, European and World championship medals.

They won a hard-fought bronze medal in the World Championships representing as Bedford Ladies in the Club competition and as England in the Closed competition.

They have now qualified to represent Great Britain in the forthcoming World Games being held in Birmingham, Alabama, USA in July this year, bringing the town of Bedford to the 2nd largest sporting event in the world.

The Bedford Ladies are well known the world over in the USA, Sweden, Italy, Spain, South Africa, Japan, Australia, Chinese Taipei the Netherlands and more.

Highly Commended: Esquires

The team that runs Bedford Esquires operate a music venue that regularly punches above its weight.

Competing against similar size venues in Cambridge and Milton Keynes it consistently attracts popular music stars to the town, providing a cultural lifeline to the people who live here.

The other nominees:

  • Alan Cooley & Neil Frankel (blender)
  • Bedford Hindu Temple and Community trust
  • Foxy Wings
  • Hometown Cafe & Grill in Kempston
  • Katie and Daniel Churchill (Bedford Repair Cafe)
  • Michelle Crook and reactiv8
  • Samsons Academy
  • Talia Giles & Laura Holmes (Bedford Flea Market)

Fundraiser of the Year (Individual)

sponsored by White Hart Press

Winner: Brian Webb

Everyday Heroes Awards 2021 Fundraiser Individual Highly Commended Brian Webb with Daniel O'Loughlin from White Hart Press
Fundraiser Individual Winner Brian Webb with Daniel O’Loughlin from White Hart Press

Why they won: Brian is the Chairman of Beds Prostate Cancer Support Group [BPCSG]. Over the last three years, Brian has visited around 50 pubs and barbershops on a regular basis to fundraise.

In that time, he has raised over £5,000 – which contributes valuable funds to the local charity [ BPCSG ]. Brian takes nothing by way of money for his time, petrol and other expenses. He is just a really decent guy, he is a Cancer survivor himself – and wants nothing more than to be able to save lives.

Highly Commended: Godwin Debattista

Godwin ‘Goddo’ Debattista started walking for Child Cancer in 2020 when Covid hit the UK, raising over £5,500.  He walked 102 miles in 2020 and last year 165 miles from Portishead to Southend and another 60 miles from Gozo to Malta.

“He is a brilliant man loved by many within the community.”

The other nominees:

  • Babz Astle (IMPAKT)
  • Kerry Surkitt

Fundraiser of the Year (Team)

sponsored by Polam School

Winner: Sue and John Pearson

Fundraiser Team winner Sue (and John) Pearson with Darren O'Neil from Polam School
Fundraiser Team winner Sue (and John) Pearson with Darren O’Neil from Polam School

Why they won: Sue and John Pearson are tireless fundraisers for Macmillan Cancer. They have both run endless marathons, done endurance running events, cycling, hosted numerous quizzes, curry nights and host an annual ball all to support the great work Macmillan does.

This Autumn, Sue is taking on back-to-back London and Chicago marathons.

Highly Commended: 1st Kempston Company, The Boys’ Brigade

To raise funds during the pandemic, 1st Kempston Company challenged each of their members to raise £62 by virtually cycling from Kempston to Glasgow – where the Boys’ Brigade was founded in 1883. The team raised £1,000.

The other nominees:

  • The Rotary Club of Bedford Park
  • Bedford Blues Foundation

Young Achiever (Individual)

sponsored by Bedford Heights

Winner: Ammaar Shaikh

Why they won: Throughout lockdown Ammaar worked as part of a knock and drop scheme supporting those in need in Bedford Borough.

He is chairman of the St Vincent De Paul Society and led virtual activities to care homes when it wasn’t safe to visit them. He also arranged food collections in his school for disadvantaged families.

In the Autumn term, he volunteered to teach a Syrian refugee Maths to support him in a GCSE Maths resit that the young man needed to access an ICT course at college.

Ammaar is also our Head Boy and goes above and beyond within his role supporting students and staff throughout the school.

Highly Commended: Will Roberts

Will, who has always had a passion for rugby, showed great entrepreneurial talent when he developed his ‘Young Rugby’ idea into a successful social media brand and, in doing so, has helped bring many young players closer to the professional world of the sport.

Off the back of the Young Rugby brand, Will has already, at the age of 16, established himself as a sought-after rugby commentator. He regularly works with NextGenXV, commentating on their coverage of schoolboy rugby and was recently appointed Lead Commentator at Bedford Football Club.

The other nominees:

  • Amber Christie
  • Heidi Evans
  • Jack Myers

Unsung Hero

sponsored by Brewpoint

Winner: Heidi Killman

Unsung Hero winner Heidi Killman with Ed Robinson from Brewpoint
Unsung Hero winner Heidi Killman with Ed Robinson from Brewpoint

Why they won: Heidi is a funeral director who has been working continuously throughout the pandemic, under very difficult circumstances. As funerals were affected by the changing restrictions and services have had to be adapted, Heidi supported families that weren’t able to attend the funerals of their loved ones while continually organising the services under challenging conditions.

Heidi’s nominee said: “Attending funerals in place of families is a responsibility that I know Heidi would take very seriously.” In addition, Heidi and her partner Debs helped out in their community during the pandemic. “Heidi provides support as part of her job, but it is the care and compassion she shows to her friends, neighbours and those in the community which show her to be a true unsung hero.”

Highly Commended: Stuart and Isabel Grant

As residents of St Bede’s Retirement Village, Stuart and Isabel run fundraising events and socials for their community including a jubilee party, carol service and cinema nights. During lockdown, Stuart created a newsletter to keep the residents in contact while they were isolating.

The other nominees:

  • Alfonso Bravoco (Mamma Concetta)
  • Charlotte Day (Bedford Women’s Centre)
  • Dorian Alexis (Samson’s Academy)
  • Kerri Rennie (Bedford Borough Parent Carer Forum)
  • Luke Levitt
  • Ravi Singh Gill
  • Sacha Ojo (Sacha’s Kitchen)
  • Sheila Durham
  • Sydney Campbell
  • Tracey Maclean

Covid Hero (Individual)

sponsored by Explore Bedford

Winner: Danielle Britten

Why they won: During the first lock down, Danielle started the NHS Care & Kindness Support Group on Facebook to help provide support, groceries and other necessities to Key workers, NHS staff and members of the public.

The group had over 2,000 members and Danielle worked all day everyday all around the clock making sure people were not going without and that NHS staff felt appreciated.

Danielle is now a barber at Gents & Juniors Bedford, providing haircuts to children with difficulties, sensory disabilities and special needs.

Highly Commended: Beccy Morgan

Beccy’s nominator says that she is always putting others first and that during the pandemic she really shone. As well as shopping for neighbours and family who were isolating, she also became a volunteer for the Samaritans – all this while working full time. Over the years she has also raised thousands for local breast cancer charity, Bosom Pals.

The other nominees:

  • Amir Khan
  • Gavin Dodds
  • Hannah Sobek Levitt
  • Rob Poyton
  • Robert Ciantar (Boys’ Brigade)

Covid Hero (Team)

supported by Bedford Food Bank

Winner: Bedford Kindness

Why they won: Craig Dawson set up Bedford Kindness as a Facebook page in order to help people during Covid.

Originally offering help to those that were vulnerable or isolating, it gave relatives that didn’t live in Bedford a lifeline to help their loved ones.

The Facebook group now offers a ‘pay it forward’ service so people can ask for items needed and has also helped victims fleeing domestic violence with clothes, toys, furniture, kitchen items etc. The admin team maintain a safe and inclusive environment for all to enjoy.

Highly Commended: Bedford Women’s Centre staff

“Bedford Women’s Centre staff saw women who had been victims of domestic abuse all through the pandemic, giving support face to face when many services would not.

“They saw a huge increase in women needing help and stepped up.”

Highly commended: Carers in Bedfordshire

“Carers in Bedfordshire have worked throughout covid to support unpaid family carers from age four to over 100.

“Every day they rang and checked that carers had what they needed. They ran zoom groups to battle isolation and they delivered essential items to homes.”

The other nominees:

  • BEDOC team
  • Bedfordshire Rural Communities Charity
  • IMPAKT Food
  • SMART Bedford’s Homeless & Rough Sleeper Services
  • Verifile
    Young Achiever Highly Commended Will Roberts with Lindsay Ephgrave from Bedford Heights
    Young Achiever Highly Commended Will Roberts with Lindsay Ephgrave from Bedford Heights

    Raising the Profile of the Town Highly Commended Esquires with Martin Steers from Bedford Radio
    Raising the Profile of the Town Highly Commended Esquires with Martin Steers from Bedford Radio