'I'd swap Kimi Raikkonen for any of you' - Amazing stories and amazing people at Comet Community Awards 2017
PUBLISHED: 10:45 20 May 2017 | UPDATED: 11:11 23 May 2017
A memorable evening was had by all last night at the Comet Community Awards in Letchworth, a celebration of the amazing stories and people that make our area great.
About 200 people packed into the Icknield Centre for the annual event hosted by Sky Sports F1 commentator and Comet Community Awards mainstay David Croft, known as ‘Crofty’.
And there were incredible stories among both the winners and the finalists, with hero police dog Finn – viciously stabbed in the line of duty last year – recognised alongside his handler Dave Wardell.
The evening started with a fine performance of classical music by a youthful string quartet from Kingshott School on the outskirts of Hitchin, and slap-up fish and chips for supper.
Stand-By-Me Bereavement Support won the Roaring Meg Community Support Award before inspirational teenage artist Lauren Asad, from Hitchin, won the Young Achiever of the Year award, sponsored by Letchworth flooring firm Altro.
Marion Flavelle, a long-time pastoral care manager at Camps Hill Primary School in Stevenage, was then named Carer of the Year, with Alistair Holmes from Letchworth’s Highfield School picking up the Teacher of the Year gong, sponsored by Airbus.
The Parent in a Million Award, sponsored by Ken Brown Motors, went to Stevenage mum Rhiannon Fraser – who reacted to her daughter’s rare condition by training as a first responder, to help not just her own child but others as well.
Palliative care nurse and serial fundraiser Sally Jarman won the Nurse/Care Worker of the Year award, sponsored by B&M Care, before Marion Flavelle was recognised a second time with the Role Model of the Year award, sponsored by Specsavers of Stevenage.
The Great and Green Award went to Hayley Sarll and Camps Hill Primary School, whose forest school, animals and muddy outside play sessions are loved by many Stevenage children.
Lauren Asad was then a winner again in the Charity Champion Award sponsored by Kingshott School, for her work painting for good causes.
The close-run Good Neighbour of the Year category, sponsored by Hamilton Davies Solicitors, was won by Samantha Wood from Stevenage for her work bringing the community together to help the homeless.
It was Valiant Volunteer next, with 80-year-old Pauline Taylor of the Garden House Hospice Care team scooping the award sponsored by Homes24.
Seventeen-year-old Letchworth community pillar Immy Blackburn-Horgan was then saluted with the Service to the Community Award sponsored by Austin’s Funeral Directors, and Immy amused the crowd with a number of to-the-point remarks during her inteview with Crofty.
The organisers then made a special presentation of a memorial plaque to the family of the late Sherma Batson, the much-missed Stevenage community champion and mayor who died earlier this year.
The last award, sponsored by Ashleys Accountants and for Lifetime Achievement, went to Sally Jarman, who added the prize to the Nurse/Care Worker of the Year award she had won earlier.
Also nominated was hero police dog Finn, who has now retired after recovering from being brutally stabbed by a suspect in Stevenage.
Sally summed up the mood when she said from the stage: “When I was training at St Thomas’ Hospital I met some wonderful people and they taught me everything, so it’s only right we teach others and that’s what I’ve done – especially at the hospice.
“My advice is not to be afraid – see qualities in people and acknowledge that. If you see something that’s been done really well, just acknowledge it! Be kind to everybody, and open to all.
“It’s wonderful that we’ve got a good community full of kindness. Keep up the good work and keep having these awards – it’s been a lovely evening.”
Crofty added: “I’d swap Kimi Raikkonen for any of you finalists tonight. You’re all fantastic people.”
At the end of the night, the results of a fundraising raffle turned up some amusing outcomes – with a class of children winning a bottle of Prosecco, and Stevenage’s mayor and consort winning a paintballing session for 10.
Crofty quipped: “So the mayor and nine Tories are going paintballing!”
The evening raised a total of £250 for chosen charity Macmillan Cancer Support.
To find out more about the awards, see cometcommunityawards.co.uk.