Heroes in our communities have been celebrated at this year’s Chichester Observer series community awards.
Volunteers support groups and sports teams were among the worthy winners unveiled at a fantastic awards ceremony held at Butlin’s in Bognor Regis tonight (Thursday, December 6).
The winners, voted for by our readers were:
Best Volunteer, The Shirley Henry Award (sponsored by George Ides): Debbie Marsh who has run The Wonder Girls in Bognor Regis for over 25 years.
Best Community Person (sponsored by Springhouse Law): Louise Morely-Brooks who is the founder member of the Bognor Regis Autism and SEND support group.
Best Fundraiser: Laura Bulbeck who has been fundraising with the Big Sleepout event in Chichester.
Best Coach: Gary Purser who set up, managed and coached the Arun All Stars walking football team.
Best Sportsperson/Sports Team: Chichester Hockey Club Ladies first team.
Special recognition: Sponsored by HR DEPT.Rachel Aslet-Clark who has worked at the Apuldram Centre for three years.
Best Voluntary/Charity Group (sponsored by the Rotary Club of Chichester Priory): The Chichester Downs Syndrome Support Group.
Best Community Event: British Forces Veterans R&R Tangmere.
Contribution to the Arts Award (sponsored by Great Ballard School): Dementia Support in partnership with the University of Chichester which offers the opportunity of an adventure and stimulation through the use of art and music.
Hero to Animals (sponsored by Butlin’s): Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital in Sidlesham which has been treating and rehabilitating injured, sick and orphaned wildlife for over 40 years.
Mini Hero: Alfie McDermott who has been fundraising for Fishbourne Primary School where he is a pupil.
Observer Award for Special Achievement: Jessica Webb who has been tirelessly raising funds to help those with Huntington’s disease.
The Observer’s communities editor Blaise Tapp said: “It is always uplifting to hear incredible stories from the people who win our awards. They really are the champions of our communities, which is why we love hosting these awards.”
After receiving her award, Debbie Marsh, runner of The Wonder Girls, said: "I am over the moon. They are a great bunch and I love them all. This is definitely my best achievement and I will be carrying on for years to come. They wouldn't let me go even if I wanted to!"
Best Community Person Louise Morely-Brooks said she was 'chuffed to bits'. She added: "I was so shocked. I was never expecting to win. Ever since we opened in February, we have grown enormously."
Suzanne Hill, who teaches members of The Chichester Downs Syndrome Support Group how to dance, said she was 'absolutely delighted' with the recognition. She added: "You don't know how little you know about Downs Syndrome, until you learn about it. The world would be a much worse place without these beautiful people."
Come back to our website tomorrow for more reaction from the winners of the Observer Community Awards.