Duo with learning disabilities win awards for inspiring attitude during pandemic

Rumble Award winners Josh Stark and David Hilliard

Rumble Award winners Hitchin's Josh Stark and Stevenage's David Hilliard - Credit: Courtesy of Hertfordshire County Council

Two inspirational men with learning disabilities have won awards for their heart-warming achievements during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Josh Stark, from Hitchin, has been crowned 2021's Personality of the Year and Shining Diamond at the Rumble Awards, and Stevenage's David Hilliard has won the Brave Heart category.

The annual awards celebrate the achievements and personalities of people with learning disabilities in Hertfordshire and are held by a group of people with learning disabilities called the Pioneer Spirits, in memory of founding member Keith Rumble.

Josh, 27, has been shielding at home with his family since March 2020, unable to visit the Stevenage Day Centre he loves due to the pandemic.

Esther O'Daly, assistant manager at the centre, nominated him for the Shining Diamond title. She said: "He deserves this award as he has had to cope with enormous changes in his daily routine, yet he still interacts, smiles and lets us know how pleased he is to see us.


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"We have been visiting Josh three times a week in his garden, where we play his favourite games – mainly involving his favourite toy, Fireman Sam."

Ali Jones, director of Pioneer Approaches, which supports people with learning disabilities, said: "The Personality of the Year award is all about how a person makes you feel. Josh brings an enormous amount of joy to the people around him.

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“People with learning disabilities can teach us so much; how to live in the moment, how to be there for one another, how to be non-judgmental and accepting, and how to make others happy by being kind, loving and friendly.”

David, 65, received the Brave Heart award after being nominated by Sue McIndoe from Stevenage Day Service, which he has attended at Leyden House for many years.

She said: "He’s a quiet and gentle man who always used to sit on the outskirt of a group. David has been attending during lockdown, while it is a lot quieter. This seems to be really positive for him - he is joining in more, talking more, trying new activities, giving his opinions, making jokes and making friends.

"I love that David’s doing more things, as he's really good at them and he's enjoying himself.

"It's lovely to hear his voice and his laugh."

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