In full: The Edinburgh Evening News Local Heroes Awards 2021

The Evening News was proud to present this year’s Local Hero Awards, an event created to honour those who made Edinburgh proud during such a difficult year.

Local Hero Awards 2021 compere Arlene Stuart
Local Hero Awards 2021 compere Arlene Stuart

This year’s award show headline sponsor was @pizza, whose support made this event possible.

Guests, nominees, and winners alike packed the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa to celebrate the people that make Edinburgh great – our first in-person award show since 2019 – at a glamorous drinks reception sponsored by Innis & Gunn.

After mingling among Edinburgh’s finest, guests were called to their seats, led by a duo of pipers playing Scotland the Brave.

Inspirational Young Adult winner Jordan Thomson with Sam Currie of Maggies

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The audience was greeted by host Arlene Stuart, radio presenter for Forth 1, who introduced the show and let guests know what they could expect from the evening.

Euan McGrory, editor of the Evening News, then followed with a speech to thank all the guests and nominees for attending, as well as the sponsors for their support.

He said: “What better reason could you have for getting together than to celebrate the amazing resilience, extraordinary acts of kindness and outstanding community spirit that we have seen across Edinburgh and the Lothians.

“One thing that the pandemic has shown us is that most people genuinely care about others. It is one of the reasons that so many ofus are queuing to get vaccinated and have followed the various lockdown rules so carefully.

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Volunteer of the year winner 99 year old David Flucker with Mark Cooper of Maggies

“Time and again, we have also seen acts of kindness, both big and small, with some people going to extraordinary lengths to help others.

“I am delighted that, thanks to the support of our community-minded sponsors, we have been able to recognise some of those incredible individuals.”

Rupert Lyle, co-founder of @pizza, then addressed the audience, commending them on their efforts in the community. He also noted that the pandemic had needed heroes, and that Edinburgh could not have had better heroes than those in attendance at the event.

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Mark Cooper, fundraising organiser for Maggie’s, this year’s charity partner, then made a short appeal, sharing the moving story of the charity’s foundation by Maggie and Charles Jencks.

Sophie Walker comes up to receive the Bravery Award from Grant Cameron of Porsche

Maggie’s managed to raise more than £2,200 for their Edinburgh centre, thanks to generous donations from the event audience who dug deep for a raffle hosted by the charity at the event.

Health Champion

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The title of Health Champion was sponsored by Bathing Mobility Advisory Service (BMAS), and presented by its commercial director, Stephen Percy-Robb.

Joe Alubaid worked all the way through Covid-19 for Specsavers, ensuring that they could provide eyecare for the community. He personally delivered emergency spectacles to adults and children, all the while maintaining social distancing and Covid hygiene measures.

Michael Reilly (L) and Logan Carr come up to receive the Junior Local Hero Awards

Nicola Bird founded the running club Pink Laydeez, with more than 80 members attending her weekly running sessions and fitness classes. She inspires people to achieve fitness, believing in everyone, and supporting women and families to become more confident in themselves.

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David McLean was medically retired from the police force as a result of an injury sustained while working. His mental health suffered greatly because of this, but he has since used his own experience to support others, encouraging them to talk to friends and family about their feelings.

Hundreds benefited daily from his social media posts during this dark time. David not only raises awareness of men’s mental health issues, but also gives them a platform to speak their thoughts on his Instagram page.

However, the title of Health Champion 2021 went to Gary Amos for his tireless efforts creating and working with the Adam Amos Foundation. It is named in honour of for Gary’s son, Adam, who died in January 2019 after taking fake Xanax.

Gary now supports people with drug issues to reach sobriety, with a large army of volunteers by his side, many of whom are recovering from their own addictions.

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Edinburgh Local Hero 2021

Margaret Pagliarulo receives the Community Champion award from Paul Wakefield of CityFibre

The Edinburgh Local Hero for 2021 award was sponsored by @pizza, and was presented by co-founder Rupert Lyle, who unveiled that the winner was Olivia Strong.

Olivia made Edinburgh proud with her viral campaign, raising more than £7 million for NHS Charities Together in a time of the biggest public health crisis the organisation has ever faced.

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Not only that but And in doing so, she encouraged the UK public to run or walk a total of more than an amazing seven million kilometres in a time of massive global inactivity.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had been “inspired by the ingenuity” of the challenge that “roused a global movement that has collectively run the entire distance to the Moon and back” in a personal letter to Olivia.

But this wasn’t the only reason Ms Strong was honoured, She remains committed to the ideal of inspiring people to be active, keeping the momentum going from her viral campaign and transforming it into aScottish charity body, Run For Heroes.

Olivia Strong made a statement as Edinburgh’s Local Hero, Accepting her award, she said: “It takes so much work to manage Run For Heroes, but the recognition of all our efforts from the Evening News and my local community really makes it all worth it.

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“I’d like to thank my mum for nominating me, my brother and sister for their support, India and Alice for their help on the campaign, our board of trustees who set up 5k May, and the Evening News for putting on the Local Heroes event, and for supporting my campaign from day one.”

Junior Local Hero Award

The Junior Local Hero Award was sponsored by Edinburgh Zoo, and presented by Beccy Angus, head of discovery and learning at the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

The two nominees on the shortlist were Michael Reilly and Logan Carr, who both show that we can support our community no matter what age we are.

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During the first lockdown, the multiple sclerosis (MS) treatment centre in Edinburgh was under considerable risk. Michael’s dad has MS, and to show his support the boy started shaving his hair.

After that, Michael challenged himself to run 5km every single day for the entire month of June. He ended up raising more than £5,000, which he used to fund outreach physiotherapy for MS sufferers who can’t afford to pay for it themselves.

Logan – also nominated for the Bravery Award – was put forward due to his incredible fight against acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a cancer of the white blood cells.

His story is inspiring to so many other families of children who have had to fight life-threatening conditions. Logan was described as being “truly a beam of light”.

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A winner could not be chosen, so they were jointly awarded the Junior Local Hero 2021 title.

They have both showed phenomenal strength, Michael in his selfless support for his father, going above and beyond for his dad, and Logan for making it so far in his recovery, completely outdoing everyone’s expectations.

Sustainable School

The title of Sustainable School was up for grabs, sponsored by Scottish Power and hosted presented by Sam Gardner, the firm’s director of climate change and sustainability.

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Between COP26 and the realities of our planet’s climate shifting, it’s important that the next generation is educated on what could come – and how they can fight it.

This award is in honour of our city’s schools doing their best to fight climate change at the bottom level – through our young people.

Cornbank Primary School in Penicuik actively seeks “global citizenship” opportunities for children and staff to participate in and lead. It was also the first school in Midlothian to be awarded seven Green Flags, a visible indication of the school’s commitment to sustainability.

Southdale Primary in Armadale is a new school searching for innovative ways to teach sustainability to its students. It has been open for five years, and for its fifth year the curriculum has been designed to put Learning for Sustainability at its heart.

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Pupils at the West Lothian school have also taken part in planting a Southdale Community Wood within the school grounds, as well as taking part in bike initiatives to encourage sustainable transport.

However, the winner of the title for Sustainable School 2021 is Cramond Primary School in north Edinburgh, where staff have worked incredibly hard are working hard to create a new generation of “sustainable thinkers”.

Much of what the children do there is geared toward solution-based thinking and the ability to take action – both local and global.

The pupils at Cramond consistently engage with sustainability goals through their curriculum. In outdoor education, the children have helped to improve local biodiversity by making “seed bombs” and growing food crops in the school garden.

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Teacher of the Year

Teacher of the Year was presented by event host, Arlene Stuart of Forth 1, the award’s sponsor.

Being a teacher may just be one of the hardest jobs in the world, made no easier by the pandemic. This award is dedicated to the teachers that did their best to engage students in a time of major change for us all.

Stewart Atkinson is an outdoor learning specialist dedicated to ensuring all at St Andrew’s Fox Covert RC Primary connect with the outdoors – a job that seemed impossible while we were all staying inside. However, Stewart’s passion for pupil wellbeing and curriculum-building in the outdoors shines through in all that he does.

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His nurture work, based on Corstorphine Hill as a place for learning, offered vulnerable learners a chance to grow, relax, explore and share their unique shine in ways few of us could have ever expected.

But the winner of the Teacher of the Year award is Bruce Murray, the headteacher of new school Letham Mains, established in 2019.

He has done his best to build a brand-new school from the ground up, while all his students and staff were working from home.

Bruce’s ambition is to ensure that no child feels unwelcome or like they don’t have a place at his school. He dedicates his own time to create and run also creates and runs clubs before and after school, including “Breakfast with a Book” and a running club.

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Community Champion

This year’s Community Champion award was sponsored by CityFibre and presented by Paul Wakefield, city manager for CityFibre in Edinburgh and Stirling.

The title of Community Champion is not one given lightly, especially after the year we’ve all had, which is why all three finalists’ stories are so inspiring.

Nicole Harland has been a Brownie leader for more than ten years, and she wasn’t going to let lockdown stop her from supporting her troop. She undertook the huge task of supporting more than 100 local kids remotely, running weekly sessions by dropping arts and crafts activity packs to each Brownie Scout.

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As soon as lockdown restrictions began to ease, Nicole sorted a group rota for them all, ensuring everyone was able to attend an in-person outdoor Brownies group session.

Nicole selflessly supported her Brownies for nothing more than thanks, recognising the need for socialisation and stimulation between children at a time when most adults were more worried about themselves and their immediate family.

Donna Sawyers set up the Big Blue Van Xmas Food Appeal last Christmas, alongside gathering food donations for the Edinburgh Food Project charity. She and her volunteers worked tirelessly for weeks in the run-up to Christmas during the pandemic.

But the winner of this year’s Community Champion award is Margaret Pagliarulo, for building Clovenstone Kitchen – a project to support families in cooking healthy meals for their children.

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On top of all her work with Clovenstone, Margaret also runs the community foodbank, giving local families a helping hand.

Inspirational Young Adult

Inspirational Young Adult was sponsored by our charity partner, Maggie’s, and presented by Sam Currie, a fundraising co-ordinator for the charity.

No-one can deny how difficult it is to be young and living through the pandemic, but these finalists demonstrate incredible resolve in their work with the community.

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Jaime Sutherland was nominated because, while he is only 18, he has already raised a significant amount of money for the charity Chest, Heart, & Stroke Scotland.

Jaime did all this in memory of her dad, Dave Sutherland, who suffered a fatal heart attack when she was just three years old.

She was 16, when she began raising money, and her total hit more than £2,500 in 2019. This year, Jaime has raised £1,260 through a sponsored skydive, and plans to raise more before 2021 is finished.

However, the winner of this year’s Inspirational Young Adult award is Jordan Thomson, a community volunteer with Street Soccer Scotland. The football charity provides award-winning free community football programmes for young people and adults.

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Jordan – who recently overcame homelessness – has given hundreds of hours of his time in a community coaching role at football sessions for adults with learning difficulties and young people in Moredun, Leith, Wester Hailes, and Muirhouse.

He has been described as “simply outstanding” by his peers at Street Soccer Scotland, and continues to demonstrate an incredible concern for his community and the wellbeing of vulnerable people within it.

Bravery Award

The Bravery Award was the first to be presented this year, but it was one of the most difficult to decide, given the strength of all the finalists.

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The award was sponsored by Porsche Centre Edinburgh, and presented by Grant Cameron, the centre principal.

All of this year’s finalists for the award have shown extreme resilience in the face of serious, unforeseen circumstances, and all at such a young age.

Logan Carr underwent chemotherapy for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, a cancer of the white blood cells, leaving him too weak to walk and requiring a wheelchair to get around in December last year. Now, after months of treatment, Logan has his strength back – and has even scaled to the top of an indoor climbing wall.

Lucy Renwick was diagnosed with a brain tumour in September last year at just three years old, yet she still puts on a brave face during her treatment.

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Oliver Flight rescued a four-month-old baby from suffocating on the 31st in July this year – he is only three years old, but he alerted an adult who took the baby to hospital, saving their life.

But in a decision that took much deliberation, the Bravery Award was finally given to Sophie Walker.

Teenage Sophie has been battling cancer since October 2017, including having to undergo surgery to remove her left kidney.

After 18 months in remission, the cancer returned, resulting in Sophie having to go through even more gruelling treatments – all during lockdown.

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However, she is once again in remission, and through it all – lockdowns, isolation, uncertainty, surgery – Sophie has always done her best to reassure others, maintaining her smile and upbeat attitude, in extreme circumstances.

Carer of the Year

The Carer of the Year award, sponsored by Edinburgh law firm Gibson Kerr, was presented by Lindsay Maclean, a partner and head of personal law at the firm.

Every carer is a hero to someone, but these Capital care workers were exceptional in their work during the pandemic – to these finalists, “carer” is more than just a job title.

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Linda Courtney works as a carer for Edinburgh City Council, but also cared for her late husband, Kevin, who sadly passed away from motor neurone disease, and more recently her sister Diane, who suffered from had multiple sclerosis.

Even on her days off, Linda visits former patients, and holds a yearly fundraiser for the MND charity.

Amanda Thomson does everything she can for her elderly clients through her job at Care in the Community, even using her own money to buy bedding, household goods, and clothing for clients who can’t manage to do this themselves. Even while on holiday, Amanda will pick up her phone for clients, offering advice and helping in any way she can.

However, 2021’s Carer of the Year is Alison Morrison, who looks after her in-laws who have dementia, as well as caring for her daughter who has cerebral palsy, and her mother, who has a brain tumour. This is all while working full-time as a carer for Call-In home care. When asked about her huge workload, Alison simply said that there was a need for care, and she was compelled to do it.

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Music & Arts award

This award was sponsored by the Edinburgh Playhouse, and was presented by its director, Colin Marr.

A lot of us relied on them music and the arts more than ever during lockdown, and these finalists show our city’s commitment to finding a way to put on a show.

Amanda Rogers worked tirelessly during lockdown to create local events which celebrated the community, through not one but two projects.

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For Cinescapes: Redrawing Edinburgh, she worked with the City Archives to create a 15-minute film made from local and national archives which was shown in areas that became part of Edinburgh in 1920. And the Cinescapes Festival was a celebration of Scottish films in the areas which inspired them, kicking off with Trainspotting in Leith.

However, the winner of this year’s Music & Arts award was Chief Radio for its efforts in giving a platform to unsigned and independent musicians when no-one else could.

All sectors were hit hard by Covid, with the live music industry one of those hit the hardest, as due to lockdowns no live music events could go ahead – but Chief Radio featured well over 250 unsigned artists, helping them get airplay on the radio in Scotland.

They have also used their platform to raise more than £15,000 for local charities in their first year, including a campaign for Cancer Research UK, and and Award Party for Girlguiding Edinburgh.

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Fundraiser of the Year

Fundraiser of the Year was presented by the editor of the Evening News, Euan McGrory.

Throughout the pandemic, fundraising has been a key part in fighting Covid-19. These finalists did what even the government struggled to do, and pulled our community together to fight a common goal.

Richard Roncero founded Steps to Hope, a non-profit charity fighting homelessness in the UK.

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In order to raise funds, he travelled to Newcastle and spent seven nights sleeping rough, raising thousands of pounds to support homeless people living with addiction.

He also operates five soup provisionskitchens, feeding up to 500 people in a week, as well as recovery accommodation for struggling individuals seeking sobriety.

Showcase is an Edinburgh-based musical theatre company that has supported Macmillan Cancer Support for more than 30 years. It has raised more than £312,000 for the charity – enough to fund a Macmillan nurse for two years. The nurses support cancer sufferers and their families, ensuring they receive essential medical, practical, and emotional support.

But the winner of this year’s Fundraiser of the Year is Olivia Strong, the creator of the viral 5.5.5 campaign, which raised more than £7 million for NHS Charities Together.

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Her campaign asked people in lockdown to run or walk 5km, donate £5, then nominate five others to do the same.

Neighbour of the Year

The award for Neighbour of the Year was presented by Catherine Salmond, editor of our sister title Scotland on Sunday.

We’ve quite literally never been closer to our neighbours than during lockdown. This might not have been the ideal situation for everyone, but if you were the neighbour of any of these finalists you really couldn’t complain.

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All finalists went above and beyond what was expected of a neighbour, embodying community spirit and making their local lockdown that little bit easier.

Jane Russell created a charity that provided fresh food for those in her local community that need it the most. She works solely using donations and with the help of a lot of eager volunteers. People who use Jane’s service receive enough food for fresh meals throughout the week.

Throughout lockdown the list of service users grew incredibly, but Jane did not shy away from the challenge – she and her team did not leave anyone that asked without fresh food for the week.

But the winner of this year’s Neighbour of the Year award is Angela Lennie, who ensured the struggling family living next door to her were supported through an incredibly difficult time.

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Her neighbour’s daughter became extremely unwell last year, and was rushed to hospital. She had to stay there for three weeks.

Angela stood by her neighbour every step of the way, sleeping on hospital chairs and watching looking after their other children in order to give the family a break.

Unfortunately, Angela has a disability of her own, but not once did she complain, nevertheless she put her needs second, and would take her neighbour to hospital day or night, and did not ask for a thing in return.

Volunteer of the Year

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The award for Volunteer of the Year was sponsored by our charity partner Maggies and presented by its fundraising co-ordinator, Mark Cooper.

The finalists for this award all gave everything they could during one of the most difficult years our Capital has faced.

Hazel Gowans runs MuzzleMutts, a lost dog search and rescue service. She does all this on a voluntary basis, saying her reward is “getting an animal home safely and being an ambassador for animals who cannot speak for themselves”.

Empty Kitchens, Full Hearts is a community organisation that has provided Edinburgh citizens with more than a million meals since the start of the pandemic. It feeds more than 1,100 people every day with a team of 3500 volunteers helping each week.

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Ellie McKenna, 13, has been volunteering for the Boghall Drop Inn Centre in Bathgate for the last 18 months. She helped drop off hot meals every weekend to those shielding, and now spends four hours after school childminding at the centre’s Monday club.

However, 2001’s Volunteer of the Year is David Flucker, 99, who volunteers for St Columba’s Hospice charity shop in Ocean Terminal, travelling by bus from his Corstorphine home to Leith.

He also donates handcrafted items which are displayed in the shop’s window and then raffled to raise funds for the Hospice, most recently raising almost £3,700.

Music and Arts award winners Chief Radio

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Euan McGrory announces the Fundraiser of the year award, won by Olivia Strong
Neighbour of the year winner Angela Lennie with Catherine Salmond Editor of SoS
Sustainable school award. Won by Cramond Primary. Sam Gardner of Scottish power with Ian from Cramond PS
Teacher of the year winner Bruce Murray

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Lindsay Maclean of Gibson Kerr (R) with carer of the year Alison Morrison (L)
Local Hero award is announced, Winner Olivia Strong with Rupert Lyle of @pizza