TEARS were shed and celebrations had as the Warrington Guardian Lockdown Heroes awards took place.

It was the first time the Guardian has hosted a virtual ceremony, but it was an emotional evening as we presented a total of 10 awards.

There was also a surprise special recognition award for Prof Simon Constable, chief executive of Warrington and Halton Hospitals, for his efforts leading his teams through the Covid pandemic.

You can read more from Prof Constable in next week's Warrington Guardian, and in the meantime find out why he was nominated by his staff by watching the video above.

LOCKDOWN HEROES AWARDS > How it all unfolded 

Dr Hilary Jones was the perfect host of the event, in association with Warrington Borough Council and Warrington Hospital, as he helped to celebrate and recognise the incredible efforts in our community over what has been such a challenging year.

If you missed all the action don't worry, as you can watch the event all over again for free here

Every one of our finalists deserved to be a winner and did incredibly well to be shortlisted after a record-breaking number of entries.

All of our judging panel found it extremely difficult to choose just one winner in each category, but they are:

BUSINESS OF THE YEAR - THE RAJ, CULCHETH

Warrington Guardian:

THERE were many nominations for The Raj Indian Restaurant, Common Lane, Culcheth and senior partner Anhar Miah.

Siobhan Carr said that the past 12 months had been extremely challenging for all hospitality industries, but 'Anhar continued to put the needs of the community first'.

“During the first lockdown in March 2020, it became apparent that many parents were struggling to provide meals for their children, especially with the uncertainty of free school meals.

“Anhar immediately opened up his premises, offering a daily free curry meal for any families in the area who needed it. He continued this for many months.

“In January of this year, the villages of Culcheth, Glazebury and Croft were affected by flooding, and once again Anhar opened his  kitchen, providing meals for anyone who needed them.  

"He has a heart of gold. He always has a smile and greets everyone with genuine warmth and care. We are so lucky to have Anhar in our community.”

Mike Wilson, Past President, Rotary Club Newton & District Jubilee, said: “Anhar  and his brothers have spent many hours working for the benefit of others less fortunate than themselves over the last 12 months.”

YOUNG PERSON OF THE YEAR - HOLLIE REID

Warrington Guardian:

SIX-year-old Hollie Reid was nominated by the team at Green Lane Community Special School, Woolston. 

Hayley Chadwick, Kerrie Lothrop, Chrissy Skermer and Gemma Phillips describe Hollie as an 'absolute inspiration to all who meet her'.

Hollie has a large number of medical conditions, causing mobility issues and has no ability to swallow, so is fed through a feeding button and is on oxygen at night. 

The team said that they knew Hollie would be extremely vulnerable to any infection. 

But they added: “Rather than just surviving the pandemic, Hollie has thrived. She decided to learn to walk during the first lockdown and, inspired by Captain Sir Tom Moore, the family challenged her to walk the length of her sofa 100 times to raise £100 for her school. 

“Hollie, with the support of her loving family, including twin sister Rosie, walked the length of the sofa 100 times, showing sheer determination and raising more than £14,000 to help buy a new school minibus.”

The team says that Hollie's mum Steph has taken on the role of home-schooling the girls to protect Hollie and done an amazing job, while dad Dan has been at work as a firefighter. They added: “Hollie has shown immense resilience in everything she does.”

COMMUNITY CHAMPIONS - THE SIKH COMMUNITY

Warrington Guardian:

THE Sikh community of Warrington were nominated because, according to Pat McLaren, director of Communications and Engagement at Warrington Hospital, they have provided 'unprecedented support to staff at the hospital'.

Pat said: “Each weekend they arrived at the Guru Nanak Gurdwara temple in Latchford to prepare, cook and package delicious hot meals and refreshments for staff who were struggling to get away from their wards as they cared for patients.  

“They supported the hospital all through wave one and stepped up again during what became wave two and three, providing an unbelievable 35,000 meals at their own expense.

“Their efforts are particularly worthy as during the second wave many of their community continued to work and yet gave up their weekends, with a 6am start each day, to support staff.”

Pat said that the volunteers have also cooked meals for the police, students and those who are homeless.

She said: “The smiles through masks as we delivered the meals to tired staff said it all. The Sikh meals lifted spirits and gave heart to staff who cared for patients in seemingly relentless waves.

“This community has truly stepped up and always put other people first. We cannot thank them enough – we have made friends for life.”

EVERYDAY HERO - MIKE O'HALLORAN

Warrington Guardian:

MIKE O’Halloran, from Orford, received many nominations for the work he has done in the community over the past year.

His daughter Vicki described her dad as 'amazing' and said: “Since we went into lockdown the first time, he has been live on Facebook every weekend and some nights in the week playing music for people.”

She said that his page, ‘Mr O’s Llive Disco and Requests’, now has thousands of followers from all over the world. 

Vicki said: “He literally spends hours on there with people having a laugh together.
“He has received so many messages explaining that this has been the only communication with people that some have and how it has helped lift their spirits.”

Vicki’s sister Becki said that their dad also performed live singing sessions from his garden to raise money during the NHS clap for carers.

“He has definitely gone above and beyond to keep everyone upbeat. Many people will agree he is a lockdown hero and we are all very proud of him.”

Maureen George said: “Mike has been entertaining friends near and far to lift people's spirits during the hard times, raising money for charities. He is a lovely person with a lovely family and would help anyone.”

CARER OF THE YEAR - KEELEY HOLFORD

Warrington Guardian:

SIXTEEN-year-old Keeley Holfford was nominated by Wired Young Carers 'for all the incredible things she does every day'.

Keeley has been a young carer since the age of seven – she cares for her mum who has various health conditions, as well as her seven-year-old sister, helping her with homework, baths and getting dressed.

Keeley attends Green Lane Special School and also has her own challenges to overcome.

Fiona Jenkins, Wired Young Carers Service Manager, said that young carers are challenged every day and Covid has put them under more pressure than ever.

Fiona said: “Keeley is a kind, compassionate, caring and a bright individual who lights up a room when she enters.

“She is always upbeat and supportive to her peers and a role model to other young carers.”

Fiona added: “Keeley cooks, cleans, does the washing and supports her mum with practical needs, especially when dad is at work. As well as keeping up to date with her homework, Keeley’s will to succeed is inspiring.”

Earlier in the year Keeley was unable to return to school as the risk of her catching Covid and passing this onto her mother was too high.

Keeley is a member of the Wired Young Carers Ambassadors Group and in the process of training as a mentor at Warrington Youth Club.

EDUCATION HEROES - HELEN SMITH AND TOM RICHARDSON

Warrington Guardian:

Helen Smith and Tom Richardson, year two teachers at Oughtrington Primary School, Lymm, were nominated for doing a 'remarkable job as lockdown teachers'.

The pair joined forces to produce funny, informative and educational videos for their pupils while they were being taught at home, dressing up as a variety of characters to bring education to life.

They were nominated by parents including Lucy Kirk, who said her son Lewis had initially dreaded the thought of virtual schooling.

Lucy said: “However they both went the extra mile to produce funny and informative YouTube lessons for the kids to interact with, as well as regular Zoom meetings to keep them entertained and engaged.

“One of their videos featured topic of habitats and the two donned some interesting characters to bring the subject to life in a humorous and engaging way.”

Lucy added: “It is not an easy task making so many resources whilst teaching over 30 kids.”

Tom, aged 26, said: “I was really shocked when I found out we had been nominated. Helen and I had real fun putting the videos together – and we got lovely messages from the parents.”

Helen, who is also Deputy Head, said: “I think making the videos kept us going as well. Not having the kids in the classroom was really hard and very strange.

“Everyone at that school has gone above and beyond, it has been a real team effort."


ENVIRONMENTAL HEROES - WASTE COLLECTION TEAM

Warrington Guardian:

WARRINGTON Borough Council’s Waste Collection Service continued to deliver 'a gold star service' throughout the pandemic according to David Boyer, the council’s director of environment & transport directorate.

He said the national lockdowns over the past year had been a very difficult period for many in the borough.

David added: “We are all amazed by those who volunteered to help our community or who bravely kept working through the depths of the pandemic. We have all seen the devastation that this virus can have on families.

“Covid-19 has created a lot of fear and uncertainty; however, here at Warrington’s Waste Collection department, our collection teams continued their gold star service to the residents of the borough.

“Classed as key workers, the teams received a vast increase in support from the local community since the pandemic struck. It managed to maintain all its collection streams through dedication, professionalism and hard work.

“From back office to operational frontline teams, we have adapted to new, strict working practices allowing all waste collections to take place as scheduled.”

David added: “Even after a number of staff contracted the virus, they returned to the depot following isolation and put themselves back on operational duties immediately supporting their colleagues.”

The team also got involved in community and fundraising work throughout the pandemic for organisations including St Rocco's Hospice.

OUTSTANDING CONTRIBUTION - THE FACILITIES CLEANING TEAM

Warrington Guardian:

THE Facilities Cleaning Team at Warrington Borough Council would under normal circumstances clean most of the schools of Warrington, the council buildings and libraries.

Throughout lockdown the team maintained their usual cleaning duties - plus enhanced sanitising and deep cleaning of each location, as well as a host of many new locations.

These included: respite/care homes; supported homes enabling hospital patient discharge; Travelodge used by the homeless; community food preparation centre; Gateway access centre for the homeless; preschool nurseries; the Halliwell Jones Stadium behind closed door games; Black Lives Matter parade; Covid testing centres; Gatewarth waste recycling centre; social care offices and vehicles; council vehicles following positive or suspected positive cases; the Rugby League Challenge Cup draw.

David Boyer said: “This all took place despite the team’s personal concerns, requiring staff to go into ‘the unknown’ in full PPE.

“The Government’s top priority was to keep schools open throughout the pandemic and the Facilities Cleaning team were at the forefront of this, maintaining a safe environment for staff and young learners.

“No building cleaned by the service had to close throughout the pandemic due to lack of cleaning or sanitising.”
 

TEAM OF THE YEAR - INTENSIVE CARE UNIT

Warrington Guardian:

STAFF nurse at Warrington and Halton Teaching Trust, Kirsten Morris, nominated the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit and 'the amazing team I’m so lucky to work alongside'.

She said: “As a team we have worked tirelessly day in, day out, fighting Covid-19 for more than 12 months.

“We have laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve been scared, we’ve hugged (in PPE) and then cried some more.

“But every doctor, nurse, HCA, domestic, physiotherapist, pharmacist and dietician (sorry if I have forgotten anyone) have gone above and beyond for every person they’ve come into contact with this past 12 months.

“We have clapped our survivors as they exited the unit to begin recovery and sadly we have also had to speak to families via FaceTime on our own phones when treatment was not working and withdrawn.

“But the team always supports each other and continues to do so.

“For us it’s not over, we are still in full PPE, still working as hard as ever for our patients and their relatives, as Covid continues and post-Covid care via our ICU steps.”

Kirsten added: “I honestly couldn’t be prouder to say I am a staff nurse at Warrington ITU, amongst such amazing people.”

Thank you to all our event partners and sponsors: Warrington Borough Council, Warrington & Halton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Warrington & Co, Sellafield, the University of Chester, Warrington's Own Buses, Handrail Creations and Warrington Wolves.
 

NEXT WEEK: 

Don't miss next week's Warrington Guardian, as we will be catching up with all of our winners in a special 16-page awards souvenir supplement.

WATCH THE LOCKDOWN HEROES AWARDS AS THEY HAPPENED