Jason O'Shea - Ultimate Award Winner
Jason Established a special charity in 2007 called ‘Wipe Away Those Tears,’ The Charity has just three trustees, Jason, his wife and a specialist Doctor. What makes the charity so unique is that there are no administration costs, every penny raised goes to helping Essex children, who have life limiting or threatening conditions. The charity admits that it has no cures to offer, but aims to bring a sparkle into the lives of the children during very difficult times. Some of the children helped are pictured on the screen. ‘Wipe Away Those Tears’ have funded many projects, from house extensions and holidays, through to special bedding and wheelchairs. A large proportion of the money raised is generated from Summer Balls, which take place at Jason’s home. Several years ago the event raised £153,000 from three hundred guests, this year three hundred and forty guests raised a staggering £240,000. The generosity shown at these functions is perhaps best demonstrated with the story of a much-needed special wheelchair costing £20,000. Jason persuaded forty guests to chip in £500 each, the cost was very quickly covered. Amazingly since being founded just 12 years ago the charity has raised over two million pounds
Ashley Simons - Highly Commended
Following IVF treatment Ashley was pregnant with twin girls. On the 20th January 2019, Ashley went into labour at exactly 24 weeks. Sadly Esme was born sleeping weighing just 670g (less than one and a half pounds). Fifty minutes later Isla, weighing even less at 655g, followed her. Having experienced the heartbreak of losing a baby, Ashley found herself in a hospital with another child fighting for life with nothing at all at the bedside. Ashley vowed that what had happened would not be in vain, she decided to help other families in similar situations. She knew first hand that nobody wants to leave their baby to go the shops and get essentials, regardless of whether they’re staying in Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or spending precious time in the bereavement suite. Ashley developed the idea of creating care packages for parents. These include essential items such as toiletries, battery packs and phone chargers. Also bonding squares so that babies and their parents can have connection even when separated by an incubator. Initially, her focus was on Basildon Hospital, more recently, Ashley has been providing care packages to neonatal transfer teams across Essex and the rest of the UK! Time forbids us reporting on all the care and attention that Ashley has been able to provide. As well as the effort needed to keep her promise to Isla to ‘Change the World’ Ashley takes care of her family and has returned to her job full time as a science teacher in Treetops Special School in Grays.
Kody and Sophie - Highly Commended
Kody was nominated by his Mum. She told us, ‘in 2018, Kody’s brother, my second son Kolby, died unexpectedly when only 16 days old. Every day Kody talks of his baby brother with pride, he mentions him to everyone he meets, and participates in all fundraising we have done, raising over £10,000. He understands what this is for and why we do it (he’s very mature for his age) Kody visits both Broomfield Hospital and Addenbrookes with me to deliver the special items we supply. He helps pack our memory boxes. He knows the Broomfield bereavement nurse very well and calls her ‘Box Lady’. The midwives and consultants know Kody for being Kolby's big brother. I am nominating him so as he gets older he can realize just how incredibly caring and kind he is. Kody is my hero, my sunshine’
Sophie’s Nominator said,
‘She started ‘Kolbysfootprints’, supplying free baby memory boxes to families who, like her, have experienced baby loss, these contain many items to capture memories such as hand and foot print kits. In memory of her late baby’s legacy she helps support Broomfield and Addenbrookes Hospital with neonatal units. She has raised over £10,000 in the first year. She has returned to full time work, in adult nursing, but continues to help others to make the most of living in this unpredictable world.’
Paul Atkins - Highly Commended
Paul is originally from the West Country where despite his gradually lessening sight he managed to have many interests and full employment. When in his thirties he realized that his vision was not good enough to continue to work he decided to retrain at the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford. He moved to Essex twenty-one years ago gradually working his way up from Service User to Volunteer for Support 4 Sight where he felt he could at last give something back. Paul is completely blind himself and has a guide dog. He has now worked for Support 4 Sight for over 14 years, running their Saffron Walden resource centre. He is in control of their 137 volunteers. In addition he organizes exhibitions and focus days throughout Essex. He works tirelessly for the benefit of all who are blind or partially sighted in our region.
Stuart Thompson - Highly Commended
Stuart didn’t have the best of starts in life, born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a brittle bone disease, as was his father and grandmother. He suffered a very difficult childhood with many broken bones. His schooling was particularly hard as he was often on the receiving end of bullying. It would have broken many others but Stuart persevered and in his second year studying, at Herewards special college for the disabled, he was appointed Students Union President. Once qualified, he gained a great deal of experience in life coaching in Leeds, within a GP practice. In 2008 he met his wife Laura and moved to Essex. Nowadays Stuart, who is around 3 foot tall and a wheelchair user, works full time as a life coach and hypnotherapist, specializing in treating anxiety, in both adults and children. His youngest clients are around 6 years of age. Stuart has been a therapist for almost 20 years and has helped hundreds of children with anxiety, severe OCD or refusal to attend school. Stuart is dedicated to supporting and helping people, spending many hours (often evenings), seeing those who need help and responding to calls and messages. He is one of those special people who are always happy to help.