Winner: Alex Gibson
Alex, from Brentwood, is a former GB decathlete and was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2018 aged 39. Since his diagnosis he has founded a charity called Challenging MND which helps to provide memorable experiences for other people living with MND. In just over 2 years the charity has raised over £170,000; and donated £100,000 to the MND Association to help pay for their Quality-of-Life Covid-19 emergency Grants. He continues to inspire both disabled and able-bodied people with the amazing challenges he takes part in on behalf of the charity. He has twice broken the Guinness World Record for travelling the 125-mile length of the Thames on a Pedalo (recently doing it non-stop in 51 hours); cycled the Outer Hebrides; scaled the 3 peaks and cycled the 480 miles in between; walked a double marathon in 25 hours; abseiled off the Orbit building in Stratford; He also averages 19,000 steps every day despite having difficulty walking and falling over 3-5 times per day.
His nominator Andrew Cappaert, said ” Alex has turned his diagnosis into
the biggest challenge of his life and an opportunity to help others with MND and I think he would be worthy recipient of this award".
Highly Commended: Samantha Fox
Sam lost her eyesight a few years ago and is registered blind, however she has not let this hinder her passion to help others. She is a member of the Collaborate Essex Disability and Carers Forum and has shown consistently her passion to raise concerns on behalf of her network and support others living with sensory impairments. Sam has participated in all forum meetings and was actively involved in a Healthwatch Essex Sensory Awareness Campaign, even appearing on BBC Look East to tell her story and advise other people how they can help! Concerns which Sam raised alongside other forum members also led to Sensory Awareness Training being rolled out in GP’s across Essex. Sam has formed strong friendships within the forum and is always checking on her fellow forum members welfare and looking for ways to offer support. Sam’s spirit for positive change has been noted by her peers and external professionals involved with the forum and they are keen to highlight the role that she has played with the implementation of positive change for others within Essex. Healthwatch Essex nominated Sam Fox for an award due to her unwavering commitment to help others living with a disability.
Highly Commended: Mark Cadman
Mark became a member of Harlow Stroke Support Group in June 2015, following
a stroke. Mark was instrumental in setting up a support group at St. Margaret’s Hospital. The aim was to ensure that stroke survivors had access to support from people who had “lived the experience” of a stroke. His commitment to patients and staff has been remarkable. He became a trustee of Harlow and helped to take the organisation forward, planning its work, supporting staff, volunteers, stroke survivors and carers. He also found time to help with fund-raising. He was elected Chair of Trustees, a role in which he has been instrumental in raising the profile of the organisation and networking with colleagues from the NHS, Harlow Council and others. Marks’ energy, drive and commitment are astounding. In addition Mark has been gaining skills to enable him to offer counselling and support to young people. Mark is truly inspiring. His on-going commitment to helping and supporting others is incredible. Jean Miley the manager of Harlow Stroke Support said, “The trustees, staff, volunteers, stroke survivors and carers are so grateful for all that Mark has done over the years. All done as a volunteer, with no payment”.
Highly Commended: Carol Symon and Chris Atkins
Carol and her partner Chris run the ‘Sailability Project’ at Hanningfield reservoir. It’s a disabled sailing club for members who have a huge range of disabilities. This dedicated couple began banging on the doors of The Council and the Essex Water Authority in 2004, persistance finally paid off and sailing for the disabled was fully facilitated in 2008. It is well attended and active every Wednesday and Thursday from April till September. Their nominator Daniel Wilson is a regular user, he said “Sailability at the Hanningfield Reservoir has truly changed people's lives and the perception of what can be done with a disability.”
Highly Commended: Gavin McKenna
Gavin gives his time to visit local schools, councils and youth clubs to make them aware of county lines and gangs. Particularly important at this time with the increase in deaths and knife crime locally. Gavin was brought up in Newham East London. He endured a tough and deprived home life and at the age of ten the ‘Street’ became his home, he was left to fend for himself. He was groomed into a gang, was attacked and stabbed, and eventually went to prison. It was there that he found religion, and decided he wanted to change. When he left prison he joined a church with their help he managed to stay on the right path and eventually met his lovely wife. Gavin decided to put his life experience to good use. He often attends youth clubs and persuades the young people away from crime. He also attends information evenings for parents and the community. Gavin is
an inspiration as he has overcome adversity and has put his life experiences to good use deterring young people away from gangs and knife crime.
Gavin is at present studying for a degree, something he thought he would never be able to do. Gavin has inspired so many people and continues to do so.