Community heroes hailed as inspirational at Stars of Lowestoft and Waveney awards
- Credit: Nick Butcher
'You are a shining star. What you have done and continue to do is inspiring and amazing.'
Those were the emotional words read out on stage as 22-year-old Courtney Parker was announced the overall winner of this year's Stars of Lowestoft and Waveney Awards.
Miss Parker, from Halesworth, was first invited up to collect an award for Charity Worker of the Year.
She set up a charity in May 2016 after losing her son Blayze at just six-weeks-old, and aims to prevent other families from suffering the same devastating loss.
The Blayze'ing Star Charity raises awareness of the infection which killed her son and pays for pregnant women to be sent home tests to screen for strep B, something not offered on the NHS.
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To date, she has raised over £12,000 for the cause and sent out more than 800 tests to pregnant women.
After being announced as the overall winner, she said: 'I was really shocked to get the first award, and I wasn't expecting the second one at all.
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'One in four pregnant ladies carry the infection so the testing kits are saving lives.
'We get quite a few messages back from people who say they are extremely grateful.'
Miss Parker was presented with a meal for two, a cheque to send out more testing kits and a £400 holiday courtesy of Cottages.com.
Opening the awards night, which is now in its third year, award founder Steve Ardley, said: 'These awards can claim to be the very best of them all, and to use the phrase that really has become our motto over the last couple of years, these are awards for people who do extraordinary things in their community and ask nothing in return. That's what makes them so very special.'
Other winners included the Lowestoft RNLI, 16-year-old Jakk Jackson for his work fundraising for Great Ormond Street Hospital, Ormiston Denes Academy for their best-ever GCSE results and Beccles swimmer Jordan Catchpole for his outstanding sporting achievements.
BBC Radio Suffolk presenter Mark Murphy, who was compère for the evening held at the Ivy House County Hotel in Oulton Broad on Tuesday night, said: 'Congratulations to all of this evening's finalists. The standard of entries to these awards was truly wonderful.
'With all that's going on in the world at the moment it's just been a wonderful evening and it really makes you appreciate the important things in life, and that's friends, family, community, it's where we live. And we can't necessarily make a difference on the world's stage but we can make a difference where we live and we have seen that in bucket loads tonight.'
The judges also presented a special award to Megan the dog who saved the life of her owner Gary Gregory after letting the paramedics into the house when he collapsed. She was invited up on stage to receive a doggy gift basket.
The full list of winners of this year's Stars of Lowestoft and Waveney Awards are:
Unsung Hero of the Year: Sally Turner
Team of the Year: Albert Pye Panathlon Team
Outstanding Bravery of the Year: Sarah Wright, who passed away this year
Outstanding Sporting Achievement: Jordan Catchpole
Young Person of the Year: Jakk Jackson
Community Group or Champion of the Year: Rob Fawcett on behalf of Lowestoft Parkrun
Uniform Services Award: Lowestoft RNLI.
Charity Worker of the Year: Courtney Parker
Education Star Award: Ben Driver, principal of Ormiston Denes Academy
Veteran of the Year: Leo Whisstock
Judges Special Award: Megan the dog
Special Recognition: Curtis, Elaine and Gary High
Overall Winner: Courtney Parker
The award for Outstanding Bravery was presented to the family of Sarah Wright, who passed away in January aged 29 after battling cancer.
The mother-of-five left more than £13,000 as a loving legacy to her family following five months of fundraising through her Mummy versus Cancer campaign.
Receiving a standing ovation as they were invited to the stage, Sarah's husband, mum, dad and brother collected the award on her behalf.
Her dad said: 'I'm just so proud of her. I loved her to bits and I always will.
'She did so much for so many people, she was selfless and just carried on.'
Flowers and presents for the children were given to the family, and a special gift was announced by Ian Gregory on behalf of Waveney Norse, where Sarah's husband Stuart used to work.
They will be planting a memorial tree in Sarah's honour at a location of the family's choice.
A Special Recognition award was presented to Curtis High and his parents Elaine and Gary in honour of their fundraising through the Taylor High Memorial Fund.
It was set up in Taylor's memory after the popular teenager died in a crash in west Norfolk in 2011. Since then the fund has raised more than £96,000 for deserving causes and made more than 100 donations across Waveney.
Back in April, Curtis completed a seven day ultimate Ironman challenge in memory of his brother, raising more than £3,700 for the fund.
Accepting the award, Mrs High said: 'I didn't know I was even up for an award, I was just here to support Curtis.
'It is really tough but we couldn't just go away and let him be a memory, we had to carry on.
'He had a beautiful smile and we used to say it is our way of passing his smile to others.'
The family were presented with a holiday break from Hoseasons.
The sponsors of this year's awards were: Kingsley Healthcare, Lings Motor Group, Sentinel Leisure Trust, Waveney Norse, East of England Co-op Funeral Services, The Hotel Victoria, Cottages.com, Hoseasons, Potters Friends Foundation (Potters Resort), Pleasurewood Hills, Waveney District Council and Ivy House Country Hotel. The Lowestoft Journal, Beccles and Bungay Journal and Eastern Daily Press were once again proud to be media partners.
Stephen Pullinger, speaking on behalf of Kingsley Healthcare, said: 'We are immensely proud to have made our home in the centre of Lowestoft and we are thrilled to be sponsoring these awards that throw such a positive light on the people of Waveney.
'You are certainly going to be in for an emotional rollercoaster, but at the end of the night I can guarantee everyone of you will be feeling a lot more positive about the world and immensely proud to live or work in Lowestoft and Waveney.'