ULTIMATE AWARD 2023
Winner: Simon Johns
Simon, had an idea, to help dads, who were struggling to cope with the loss of a baby and whose mental health was at breaking point. In a few short years, from an idea on a piece of paper, he created a community of more than 40 bereaved fathers, playing football each week, as part of the 'FC Vilomah' Football Club which is soon to be a charity in its own right. He works tirelessly, day in and day out - in the evenings, and across weekends - to make sure, that the club, is more than just a ‘Sunday league football team’, but one, that actively supports, the baby loss community, in Essex. While, also, providing a place for dads, who have lost children, to come together, and find support, through sport. The club isn’t just there for fathers, but has grown, an active community of mums, family members, and friends, who support the team.
Not content, with just providing support, for those dads who play, Simon also put forward the dream, of how, as a club, they could help more, than just themselves, and their immediate families. His vision, was of a community that raised money, raised awareness, and raised the spirits, of those affected by baby loss, throughout Essex. The club, has now launched its own charity, so that it can go, beyond football, and reach more grieving parents.
From friendly football matches, to charity golf days, the club, has raised more than £40,000 for baby loss causes. This, while still operating as a local Sunday league club.
Highly Commended: Emma Hughes
Emma has worked for Sanctus, a homeless charity in Chelmsford for over 10 years. Her team describe her as an 'Earth Angel'. She has health challenges, an autistic child and her husband is registered blind. Her nominator Sarah Coppin said "Emma gives her time, her energy and will listen for hours as clients pour their hearts out. She has gone above and beyond for many years, for Sanctus clients. She even left a family wedding to source emergency accommodation for one of her clients over a weekend. This is typical of Emma's committed and selfless service".
Highly Commended: Alasdair Gavin
Alasdair is a member of Southend Rugby Club and the founder and lead coach of SouthSEND (Special Educational Needs and Disability) rugby. With a son Sandy, who has Down Syndrome, Autism and ADHD, it got to a point where it wasn’t safe for Sandy, due to the contact and his condition to continue playing rugby. As a parent and coach Alasdair had to do something for Sandy and others with a Special Educational Need and Disability to continue playing. This led Alasdair to the idea of SouthSEND Rugby. The focus for sessions is listening skills, teamwork, empathy and most importantly fun. They try their hardest to be as inclusive as possible and have regular attendees with DS, ASD, SEMH, GDD, Dyspraxia and one child who is visually impaired.
His Nominator Elliot Zagger said, “Having watched Alasdair coaching, the children have such a connection with him and you can’t but admire his passion for what he does. Rain or shine Alasdair and his team are there providing a respite for parents to stand back and watch their children with smiles on their faces.”
Highly Commended: Lane Line and the Sleigh Belles
As volunteer fundraisers to ‘Kids Inspire’, Lane and her ‘Sleigh Belles’, have actively organised, and supported, the ‘Christmas Appeal’ by collecting Christmas Hampers and gifts, for disadvantaged children. Lane, began her volunteering for ‘Kids Inspire’, 5 years ago, by volunteering, with her son, to collect donations, for 16 food hampers, to contribute directly, to the ‘Kids Inspire Christmas Appeal’. Since then, her passion, drive and impact, has grown. Over the last 5 years, Lane has volunteered her time, to raise funds, to create over 1,400 Christmas Food hampers, for disadvantaged families, across Essex. Alongside the hampers, she also funds many many other gifts for the appeal, as well.
Highly Commended: Michele Adams
Michele has worked for children and young adults with additional needs since 1986. Her long and successful career led Essex County Council to honour Michele with the "Our People Award" in 2010 for her role in influencing the lives of so many young people. However, in 2013 due to her mother’s dementia she changed tack to spend more time at home to take care of her family. She took a job at a nearby SEN college because she didn't want to give up on her desire to work with people with special needs. She established a class for young adults to boost their social confidence and ease their transition to subsequent colleges. Many anxious young people were rapidly transformed into self-assured adults with a new sense of purpose in life by Michele's compassionate, caring approach. Following the passing of her mother in 2018, Michele made the decision to launch her own programme after realising that some pupils required more than just academic learning. Michele created the new provision in 2019 with just a few rooms. She gave it the name "Lily Rose Day Provision" in memory of her late mother. Since Lily Rose began in September 2019 with just two members, Michele has worked relentlessly to provide life changing opportunities for the individuals in Lily Rose’s care. Today, the team help more than 150 young people across Essex reach their potential.