Chichester Observer series community awards winners react to their successes

Heroes in our communities have been celebrated at this year’s Chichester Observer series community awards. Here is how the winners reacted after receiving their award:

Debbie Marsh, who has run Wonder Girls for more than 25 years, won Shirley Henry Best Volunteer Award. She said: "Everyone sees us out and about. They raise a lot of money for charity. They are a great bunch and I love them all. I am over the moon. This is definitely my best achievement and I will be carrying on for years to come. They wouldn't let me go even if I wanted to!"

Chichester Downs Syndrome Support Group

Chichester Downs Syndrome Support Group

Best Community Person Louise Morely-Brooks said she was 'chuffed' after winning the award, which recognises the people who are at the heart of the community, helping out, volunteering, and going all out to do things to enrich the lives of people around them.

Louise is the founder member of the Bognor Regis Autism and SEND support group. She added: "We run a parent support group in Bognor. It is for parents with children who have learning disabilities. It only started in February but it has been growing and growing. We want everyone to get the support they need. I'm a parent to children with special needs and I just decided that I wanted to help everybody else [in the same position].

"I was so shocked. I was never expecting to win. Ever since we opened in February, we have grown enormously. It is expanding all the time. We have a parent support group in Chichester and we want to open up one in Littlehampton. We are always looking for volunteers."

Laura Bulbeck won the award for Best Fundraiser for her work with homeless charity Stonepillow. She said: "We work 24 hours a day and have a massive impact on our clients. The situation that these people are in could happen to anyone and I am just so happy to be able to help them." Read about just some of Stonepillow's amazing work here.

Alfie McDermott. Picture by Derek Martin. dm18120082a

Alfie McDermott. Picture by Derek Martin. dm18120082a

Gary Purcer won the award for Best Coach, after setting up, managing and coaching the Arun All Stars walking football team, which is aimed at 60/70 year olds. it was set up in 2016 from nine people to more than 40. Gary said: "It is fantastic. I can't believe it. It is a great way for people to socialise in a warm and welcoming environment. It's all about having fun. We've raised more than £2,500 already this year. We raised £100 on one event recently. It is about the enthusiasm of the people and having fun."

Chichester Hockey Club Ladies first team won the Best Sports Person/ Sports Team award. Captain Sally Bradley said: "We are very pleased with this award."

Squad member Lotte said: "It shows how hard we have worked. I think we have deserved it."

Chichester Downs Syndrome Support Group was named the Best Voluntary/Charity Group. Suzanne Hill, who teaches members of the group how to dance, said she was 'absolutely delighted' with the recognition. She added: "You don't know how little you know about Downs Syndrome, until you learn about it. They are just like anyone else. They may go about things in a slightly different way, but they get there. The world would be a much worse place without these beautiful people." Watch the video above of some of the members of the group after accepting their award. Read more about the group here.

Chichester Hockey Club Ladies first team. Picture by Derek Martin. dm18120047a

Chichester Hockey Club Ladies first team. Picture by Derek Martin. dm18120047a

British Forces Veterans R&R Tangmere won the award for Best Community Event. The group is for people who served in the armed forces, working in partnership with Sage House, which offers dementia support. Nicki Clarke, who works at Sage House, said it is a great place for former members of the armed forces to reminisce on their past and create memories together. Nicki said the group gives support to around 50 people.
Former serviceman Jimmy Green, who was also on stage to accept the award, said: "The soldiers gave so much to the country and all deserve recognition. I am just so happy to be part of it."

Dementia Support, in partnership with the University of Chichester, won the Contribution to the Arts Award. This partnership offers the opportunity of an adventure and stimulation through the use of art and music.

Accepting the award, Nicki Clarke said: "To win this award is fantastic. We only opened up in May this year. The issue of dementia is becoming more pronounced and we need better care. Everybody knows somebody who lives with it."

Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital won the Hero to Animals Award. General manager Robert Knight said it is 'wonderful that we have been recognised in this way'. He added: "The world would be a terrible place if we lost our wildlife. We have got to get our act together as a species." Read more about Brent Lodge here.

The Mini Hero award was presented to Alfie McDermott, who raised £1,174 for his school, Fishbourne Primary, by completing a 10k run. 9-year-old Alfie said his inspiration is his mum, Madeline, who is an avid runner, and they both plan to raise more money for Alfie's 'great school'. Read more about Alfie's story here.

Jessica Webb won the Observer Award for Special Achievement. Described as an inspiration, Jessica has tirelessly raised funds for Huntingtons disease. After receiving her award, Jessica explained that the disease has impacted her own family. She said: "I wanted to raise awareness of Huntingtons disease because sadly my uncle and grandfather passed away from it. So far, I have raised £3,600. I am really happy that I am raising awareness."

See our full list of winners and some reaction here.

Click here for all our pictures from the night.