Here they are – the Bedford heroes who walk among us

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Everyday Heroes Awards finalists, highly commended and winners 2023
Everyday Heroes Awards finalists, highly commended and winners 2023

Last night we said “thank you” to the Bedford heroes who walk among us, with our fourth Everyday Heroes Awards, in partnership with The Harpur Trust.

Just over 50 people were shorlisted for making Bedford brilliant between January and December 2023 and last night (26 April) they packed into the Quarry Theatre with their friends and family for a night dedicated to them.

This celebration was shared with hosts Bedford School, as well as each of the category sponsors that made the evening possible.

These same category sponsors helped secure the independent nature of the awards by forming our judging panel.

Other than observing and guidance, Bedford Independent staff played no part in the judging process and all those who have been chosen as highly commended and winners were selected after careful deliberation by those independent judges.

It really is such a privilege to be in the room hearing about each of the nominees and the work they do as the judges make their choices. We can tell you from personal experience, it is not a decision taken lightly.

Whatever the outcomes of that judging process, each finalist rightly deserves to be recognized for their work to make Bedford brilliant and we couldn’t be more humbled to have shared the room with them at their award’s evening.

Each nominee can hold their head up high and say you truly are one of those who make Bedford Borough brilliant.

A full house

Setting the mood and creating a buzz in the air were the Bedford School Jazz Band, who were supported by their schoolmates who helped serve food and drink, and guide guests to their seats.

One attendee said: “The band was incredible. Kudos to them and all the lads who helped host the evening.”

Finalists were also joined by local dignitaries including MPs Mohammad Yasin (Bedford and Kempston, Labour) and Richard Fuller (North Bedfordshire, Conservative), and the Lord-Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, Susan Lousada who closed the event.

Hosting the evening, Paul Hutchinson and Erica Roffe, co-managing editors of the Bedford Independent and Lucy Bardner, community programme director at The Harpur Trust, detailed why each nominee had been shortlisted.

You can read more about them at below, and also see who was chosen as Highly Commended and winner in each category.

Tom Carr

Bedford Independent volunteer Sports Editor Tom Carr was also recognised on the night.

Speaking on the night co-founder and co-editor of the Bedford Independent, Paul Hutchinson explained that due to the independent nature of the awards, Tom was not eligible to be nominated in the awards.

“While Erica and I cover news across Bedford in general, Tom Carr looks after Bedford Independent’s sports coverage,” he said.

“Since joining us in late 2019, he has written 645 articles about Rugby, Football, Golf, Cricket, Hockey, Rowing, Netball, Basketball, swimming, martial arts, motorsports, and almost every sport Bedford has to offer from grassroots to professional.

“645 articles that, had been read collectively almost half a million times.

“And this is while he also remains dedicated to his full-time job as a ward receptionist at Bedford Hospital.

“Tom, the Bedford Independent and our readers are truly grateful for everything you do to make sure news about sports in Bedford Borough is covered so extensively.”

Tom Carr with Bedford Independent Commercial Director Julia Course at the 2023 Bedford Independent Everyday Heroes Awards
Tom Carr with Bedford Independent Commercial Director Julia Course at the 2023 Bedford Independent Everyday Heroes Awards

These are the people who make Bedford brilliant

Click or tap on the category to see who won
Volunteer of the YearExcellence in EducationRaising 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 HeroYoung Carers of the Year

Volunteer of the Year

sponsored by The Harpur Trust

The nominees:

Akaal SevaAkaal Seva have been feeding vegetarian curries to the homeless in Bedford for 10 years. It is funded by donations of their members. Akaal Seva loves to serve the community.
Angela HuddartAngela has volunteered with Beyond Detention since 2010, providing emotional and practical support to people detained in Yarl’s Wood and serving for 12 years as a trustee of the charity.
Jennie BaylissJennie has volunteered for FACES for over 6 years. In 2023 she launched our Baby Bank and became the chair of trustees for the charity. Our Baby Bank supports over 1,250 people.
Jubilation Action GroupThe volunteers cheerfully give their time freely to people in the community that are less fortunate than themselves. They are always ready to help with a smile, making service users forget their problems.
Stevington Community ShopStevington Community Shop celebrated its 30th anniversary in February. Opened when the last shop closed down and is completely volunteer run and the lifeline and the backbone of our Community Hub.

Winner

Akaal Seva

Volunteer(s) of the year winners Akaal Seva with Lucy Bardner of the Harpur Trust
Volunteer(s) of the year winners Akaal Seva with Lucy Bardner of the Harpur Trust

Highly Commended:

• Jennie Bayliss
• Jubilation Action Group

Excellence in Education

The nominees:

sponsored by Bedford School

Anita BarkerThe children are at the forefront with her passion for education and pastoral care. Anita is at every event and knows most, if not all, the children in the school by name and still asks after my oldest child, who left 2 years ago
Cheryl WilliamsCheryl goes over and above in her role and makes every child, parent, member of staff feel loved and valued. She creates an environment where everyone feels safe. She gives up so much of her personal time for others.
Faye McKinneyFaye is the SENDCO at Shackleton Primary School and is an absolute diamond. Her open door policy and 100% pro-active hyper-efficiency is a God-send to the most vulnerable children and their families. She is an inspiration.
Matthew GibbsIncredible work at the Nightingale Centre at Mark Rutherford school, supporting autistic students and inspiring them to believe they can achieve amazing things. Every school needs a Mr Gibbs

Winner:

Faye McKinney

Excellence in Education winner Faye McKinney with Sam Baldock from Bedford School
Excellence in Education winner Faye McKinney with Sam Baldock from Bedford School

Highly Commended:

• Cheryl Williams

Raising the Profile of the Town (Individual)

sponsored by The Quarry at St. Lukes

The nominees:

Fi FowlerFiona is the co-director of the Bedford Festival Fringe and has been on the team ever since it started back in 2007. Without Fiona’s valuable input and support, this festival wouldn’t exist.
Jane HutcheonJane regularly works on projects to help bring visitors into the town including building the Giant Christmas Wreath and organising flower flashes.
Peter McCormackPeter has developed Real Bedford Football Club and has been at the forefront of back-to-back league titles for the Men, with the Women hopefully to follow suit in the next couple of weeks. He has invested into youth football and attracted investment from all over the world.
Steve BarrattSteve works tirelessly for the town, promoting the tour guide association in Bedford and over several years. His enthusiasm is endless and his desire to promote the town and encourage others to find out more, is infectious.
Talia GilesTalia showcases Bedford’s creativity, formerly co-producing Bedford Flea and founding Pride of Place which reached over 5,000 people with free activities and provided a platform for local artists to rent studios and exhibit work

Winner:

Peter McCormack

Raising the Profile of the Town (Individual) winner Peter McCormack with James Pharaoh MBE of The Quarry Theatre
Raising the Profile of the Town (Individual) winner Peter McCormack with James Pharaoh MBE of The Quarry Theatre

Highly Commended:

• Steve Barratt
• Talia Giles

Raising the Profile of the Town (Team)

sponsored by Bedford Radio

The nominees:

Bedford Amateur Regatta CommitteeFor 170 years, The dedicated community of volunteers at Bedford Regatta has brought competitive racing to the picturesque Embankment, launching the careers of champions and bringing income to the local economy.
Bedford Creative ArtsBedford Creative Arts is pivotal in raising the profile of Bedford, leveraging funding to orchestrate creative workshops and research initiatives. These endeavours have resulted in meaningful connections and collaborations within the community and beyond.
Bedford EsquiresBedford Esquires work tirelessly to promote local talent, the up-and-coming, plus established bands. People come from far and wide to our town so they have put Bedford firmly on the map.

Winner:

Bedford Creative Arts

Raising the Profile of the Town (Team) winners Bedford Creative Arts with Martin Steers of Bedford Radio
Raising the Profile of the Town (Team) winners Bedford Creative Arts with Martin Steers of Bedford Radio

Highly Commended:

• Bedford Amateur Regatta Committee
• Esquires

Fundraiser of the Year (Team)

sponsored by White Hart Press

The nominees:

Bedford Hospital Charity & FriendsVolunteers at Bedford Hospital Charity & Friends have worked tirelessly through the year raising over £800,000 for major equipment for Bedford Hospital.
Bedford School Movember ‘Mo Bros’Mo Bros are a group of 80 Upper Sixth Form schoolboys and in 2023 they smashed all fundraising targets and broke the school record delivering an outstanding campaign, raising almost £20,000 and creating awareness.
David Donnelly, Terry Donnelly, John Jones & David RossIn 2023 £27,520 was raised towards a new cutting-edge da Vinci Xi surgery robot. They arranged a golf day in memory of three of David and Terry’s brothers, Robert, John and Chris, who lost their lives to COVID in 2020.
Maryanne Hoar & Tanya PittMaryanne and Tanya both work at Sue Ryder St John’s Hospice and they took part in a three-day trek on the edge of the Arctic Circle. They raised £7,456 to help the amazing work the hospice does.
Team GoddoTeam Goddo took on the London Marathon, a 17-hour walk from Bedford to central London, plus another 60 mile walk in Malta to raise money for Childhood Cancer and a homeless children charity.

Winners:

David Donnelly, Terry Donnelly, John Jones and David Ross

Fundraiser of the Year (Team) winners David Donnelly, Terry Donnelly, John Jones & David Ross with Daniel O'Loughlin of White Hart Press
Fundraiser of the Year (Team) winners David Donnelly, Terry Donnelly, John Jones & David Ross with Daniel O’Loughlin of White Hart Press

Highly Commended:

• Maryanne Hoar & Tanya Pitt
• Bedford Hospital Charity & Friends

Fundraiser of the Year (Individual)

sponsored by Woodfines Solicitors

The nominees:

Helen NellisHelen auctioned her impressive collection of headwear for the MS Centre, Bedford at an afternoon tea raising £4,245
Liz SimmondsLiz is a tireless fundraiser raising thousands of pounds for countless charities, including running a 100km ultra marathon and has even donated a kidney to help someone in need.
Lola MurphyLola Murphy, aged 9, raised over £1,000, smashing her £200 target for a Bedfordshire cancer charity after her Grandmother was diagnosed by scooting around Grafham Water.
Vaska Millard Vaska, aged 11, and his long hair braved the shave to raise money for the Macmillan after his grandmother died of the disease. Smashing his £300 target and raised £2,275
Wendy WatmoughWendy has fundraised tirelessly for Tibbs Dementia Foundation after her husband was diagnosed with Dementia. In 2023 she raised £4k with an art exhibition or her husband’s drawings and a carol concert.

Winner:

Liz Simmonds

Fundraiser of the year (Individual) winner Liz Simmonds with Rebecca Convington of Woodfine Solicitors
Fundraiser of the year (Individual) winner Liz Simmonds with Rebecca Convington of Woodfine Solicitors

Highly Commended:

• Lola Murphy
• Wendy Watmough

Young Achievers

sponsored by Bedford Heights

Age up to 13

The nominees:

Lola BraceyLola continues to campaign for girls’ voices to be heard in sports in school – especially football. Her Let Girls Play petition reached over 66,000 signatures. She also plays football for both club and county.
Megan BarnicoatMegan achieved national sporting success, with numerous honours on top of countless regional and county titles across multiple sports and different events reflecting her remarkable versatility.
Sophie Hartley-BoothSophie is accomplished in the field of Performing Arts. She has achieved numerous awards at dance festivals including the All-England Regional Finals, and has appeared on Warner Bros and Netflix feature films.

Winner:

Lola Bracey

Young Achiever (up to 13) winner Lola Bracey with Tim Pain of Bedford Heights
Young Achiever (up to 13) winner Lola Bracey with Tim Pain of Bedford Heights

Highly Commended:

• Megan Barnicoat
• Sophie Hartley-Booth

Age 14 to 21

The nominees:

Charlie FaulknerCharlie has given so much of his time and expertise to help children’s charities and community groups, in particular, improving the lives of underprivileged children. He has delivered talks about consent, respect for women and being an ally.
Eloise ColeEloise’s swimming achievements include Gold at County, Regional, English and British levels. At the ISF U15 World Schools Games, held in Brazil, Eloise won a Gold and two Silvers. She also broke 12 County Records.
Holly TuttHolly Tutt has proudly represented the school, England, and GB at the junior level for skiing. Serving as an exemplary role model, she currently captains the BGS ski team and continues to inspire the younger students.
Lara SpajićLara is taking the Junior Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (BJJ) scene by storm and to date she has achieved an astonishing 11 British, European, and World BJJ titles.
Ryan CloseRyan competed at the British Summer Championships (swimming) and made the final of both the 50m and 100m Butterfly. He also won numerous Gold medals at both County and Regional levels, and broke two County Records.

Winner:

Charlie Faulkner

Young Achiever (14 to 21) winner Charlie Faulkner with Tim Pain of Bedford Heights
Young Achiever (14 to 21) winner Charlie Faulkner with Tim Pain of Bedford Heights

Highly Commended:

• Ryan Close
• Eloise Cole

Unsung Hero

sponsored by Brewpoint

The nominees:

Reverend Andrea MaffeiA pillar of our community, Andrea supports everyone. She set up a warm space for people to have a safe space and have something to eat and drink for free and enjoy the company of others.
Beverley EverittBeverley has spent thousands of hours feeding over 100 people in need in Bedford every Saturday night. She has never missed a Saturday in all the years she has been running the Saturday Outreach Service.
Christian ColeyResident at Emmaus Village Carlton, having formerly been homeless himself, Christian set up and runs the Rucksack Stomp, where he and volunteers go out three evenings a week to support the homeless since 2017.
Satnam Singh GalsinSatnam is a dedicated individual who has spent over 35 years of constant community service helping various charities with youth projects, elderly people support and organising educational & health awareness sessions.
Spiral FreerunThey are an asset to the community. The focus on physical fitness and mental health with a brilliant positive and encouraging ethos. They strives to help neuro diverse children and those with mental health conditions

Winner:

Christian Coley

Unsung Hero winner Christian Coley with Peter Wells of Brewpoint
Unsung Hero winner Christian Coley with Peter Wells of Brewpoint

Highly Commended:

• Beverley Everitt
• Spiral Freerun

Young Carer of the Year

sponsored by Heart Academies Trust

The nominees:

Andreea BalanAndreea cares for non-verbal younger brother who can sometimes be challenging and supports mum with her newborn. She cleans the house before school and walks her brother to school everyday. Always puts herself last, hates being a bother to anyone. Fantastic young lady!
Isabelle McCreadyIsabelle’s mum lost her hearing so she is always supports her to communicate and also takes on the chores, like shopping. She attends her mum’s medical and other appointments and translates for her. She has even learned sign language to help!
Leighton CurtisLeighton cares for his mum on a daily basis. His mum has been unwell since he was one and Leighton has naturally adapted to caring for her, assisting with household tasks and is the first one there for cuddles and to support her.
Mollie-Marie GadsbyMollie has been caring for her mum since January 2023. She has dealt with eviction, moving into temporary accommodation and abandoning all our friends to start a new school. She a beautiful little gem

Winner:

• Andreea Balan

Highly Commended:

• Isabelle McCready
• Leighton Curtis
• Mollie-Marie Gadsby

Young Carers of the Year Highly Commended Leighton Curtis, Isabelle McCready and Mollie-Marie Gadsby with David Morris from Heart Academies Trust
Young Carers of the Year Highly Commended Leighton Curtis, Isabelle McCready and Mollie-Marie Gadsby with David Morris from Heart Academies Trust

Details of the next Everyday Heroes Awards will be released soon, but for this year, we’d like to extend our heartfelt thanks to every person who took the time to make a nomination.

We received over 100 nominations in total and if it hadn’t been for those making a nomination, we would not have been able to help recognise Bedford’s Everyday Heroes that walk among us.

To read more about previous years’ Everyday Heroes Awards, head to our dedicated pages.