Chichester's local hero Gabby Spandley incredibly proud and overjoyed after Christmas Lights switch-on

Much to her and her parent's surprise, Gabby Spandley was selected as the local hero to turn Chichester's Christmas tree lights on as part of Saturday's celebratory evrent because of her outstanding work raising money for charities by doing triathlons and duathlons.

Tuesday, 30th November 2021, 5:38 pm

Gabby's mother Ellen applied for Gabby to be Local Hero after she saw in the Chichester Observer that people could put forward names, but said she never expected Gabby to actually win.

Mrs Spandley said: "I thought about what she had done, and thought, well that is something special, but I didn't think in a million years that she would win!"

About turning the lights on, Gabby’s parents Richard and Ellen said: “I think she thoroughly enjoyed it! She was a bit nervous to start off with but she was also very excited.”

Chichester Christmas lights switch-on

“We are incredibly proud of her.

She’s really looking forward to Christmas now, she’s already got her list out!”

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Chichester Christmas lights switch on in picture

Gabby, who is autistic and has a heart condition and avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, was meant to take part in a triathlon with Tribal Sports at Oakwood school earlier in the year but it was cancelled due to COVID-19. She was disappointed that not only was she looking forward to it but mainly that she would not raise the money she had hoped for Dementia Support.

Richard Plowman, the town crier led the parade towards the cross from East Street

So with the help of her parents Richard and Ellen, Gabby decided to do the triathlon on her own on the green.

Mr and Mrs Spandler said: "We marked it out with cones or water bottles, and made a line for her to cross. She did the swim part as well, there was nowhere she could do a proper swim so she pretended to swim up and down a row of trees for the distance".

Later in the year Gabby also raised money on her own again, this time doing a duathlon for the Sussex Snowdrop Trust.

Town crier Richard Plowman said: “Having Gabby switch the lights on was just brilliant, I couldn’t think of anyone more worthy, she was absolutely great!

Local hero Gabby Spandley with her Parents Richard and Ellen, as she is about to turn the Christmas lights on

"The whole event was really really good, it had almost a village feel about it, everybody was out there, all in good spirits. After all we’ve been through I thought it was really nice that people were out there, they can forget about the pandemic for a while and just enjoy themselves."

Mr Plowman added: “When I got home, although I was cold, I was actually warm on the inside with a good feeling.

Mr Plowman did however state in jest that he had one gripe from the evening's events, he said: “The only thing is, when I was doing the torchlight procession, one of the children came up to me and said: ‘Why have we got a pirate leading us!”