Photo courtesy of Phil Evans
THEY really are the pride of Andover.
The good, the brave and the inspirational were honoured at an awards ceremony this week as people from across the town turned out to celebrate its community heroes.
The eighth Pride of Andover Awards saw 19 finalists recognised with winner and runner-up prizes for their outstanding dedication and contribution to the area.
A dozen award winners were crowned on the night, with their trophies presented by TV personality Esther Rantzen.
Esther, the founder of the Childline and Silver Line charities took the time to chat to all the finalists to discover their inspiring stories in what was an emotional night at The Lights.
The awards have consistently produced a high calibre of entries for the categories and this year was no exception.
The ceremony kicked off with the Contribution to Arts Award, which went to Louis Sellars, who has helped to set up regular Costa Acoustic Nights and organises the live music at both Armed Forces Day and Andover Carnival.
Inspirational Rosie Rickards collected the Young Person’s Award following her brave battle against a brain tumour, which she was diagnosed with in 2013.
John Watts then picked up the Good Neighbour Award, before Peter Gladwin took to the stage to receive the Courage Award after turning his life around from being a young offender to become an author.
Andy Lavery, who runs the Andover Martial Arts and Fitness Centre, was handed the Inspiring Award after receiving more than 30 nominations, before staff at the Countess of Brecknock Hospice were honoured for their exceptional care with the Health Award.
The Teacher Award was presented to Susan Bushell, who was nominated by one of her pupils whose life was “transformed” under her guidance.
Susan said: “I am very proud to be here and it is very humbling because I am just doing my job.”
In the Fundraiser Award category Andover War Memorial Hospital volunteer Brian Critcher was declared the winner, while Billy MacLeod scooped the Heart of Gold prize for his work in setting up the Veterans In Action charity to help ex-military personnel.
After the ceremony Billy told the Advertiser: “I’m a bit emotional.
“I don’t expect this because it is not my driving force to get awards.
“I just do what I do because I enjoy doing it.”The Citizenship Award was won by Paul Johnson for his work in organising Armed Forces Day, before Denise Timms was given the Spirit of Andover Award for her volunteering work, which has seen her raise £65,000 in eight years for the Guide Dogs Association.
Denise said: “I am delighted. I was very overwhelmed by it all and I found it humbling.
“It is nice to be nominated, I was extremely nervous but it was a very nice occasion.”
The night drew to a close with the inaugural Sue Sheppard Award, which was presented to Malcolm Cambridge for his heroic role in coming to the aid of a man, who suffered a heart attack at Andover Baptist Church.
Speaking after the ceremony Esther Rantzen said: “I have to say it is one of my favourite nights of the year.
“For me personally the sheer emotion here tonight is something I remember all year.”
One of the organisers, Barbara Long, said: “It has been absolutely fantastic with some absolutely amazing stories. It was a fantastic evening and to get so many nominations year after year, Andover really is somewhere to be proud of.”
Report by Joe Faretra