Stars of Norfolk Awards: We salute USAF heroes, Mr Christmas and brave Deryn

The EDP Stars of Norfolk awards. John Cushing welcomes his family on stage, wife Barbara, and sons G

The EDP Stars of Norfolk awards. John Cushing welcomes his family on stage, wife Barbara, and sons George, left, and Charlie, after winning the Lifetime Achievement Award. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2014

The brave, the kind and the community-minded were recognised at the Stars of Norfolk Awards 2014. ROSA MCMAHON reports on that special night.

The EDP Stars of Norfolk awards. A special recognition award for personnel from the 48th Fighter Win

The EDP Stars of Norfolk awards. A special recognition award for personnel from the 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, presented by Elizabeth Truss and Jeff Henry, right. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2014

It was an evening full of joy, gratitude, pride – and a few tears too.

The EDP Stars of Norfolk Awards celebrated in style the people in our community who make a difference.

On Thursday, St Andrew's Hall in Norwich was bursting with heroes, heroines, their friends and family who work selflessly and tirelessly for others. The atmosphere was electric as one by one the Stars of Norfolk winners were cheered and celebrated by the audience of some 280.

The 2014 awards were in partnership with Norfolk County Council, district councils, the EDP, its many sister titles across Norfolk and generous sponsors.

The EDP Stars of Norfolk awards. Deryn Blackwell receives a special recognition award from Jonathan

The EDP Stars of Norfolk awards. Deryn Blackwell receives a special recognition award from Jonathan Green and Rosa McMahon. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2014


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It was a surprise end to the evening – and everyone was moved.

Norfolk's Mr Christmas, an inspirational Watton teenager and our brave American brothers and sisters from RAF Lakenheath were all honoured with special awards.

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Thursford Show founder John Cushing was given a Lifetime Achievement Award for his Christmas spectacular which attracts tens of thousands of visitors to the small north Norfolk village every year.

The completely live stage show's popularity has snowballed from its humble beginnings in the 1970s with eight choral scholars from the King's College Cambridge choir visiting Thursford on Christmas Eve.

It is now one of the biggest sell-out Christmas shows in Europe and a must-do event on many family's calendars.

And Mr Cushing, a father of two, is not a hands-off chief executive. All year round he is working on the upcoming show, a perfectionist eager to get everything just right.

He was surprised by EDP editor-in-chief Nigel Pickover and entrepreneur Graham Dacre with a festive scene fit for the Christmas show impresario.

Mr Cushing, who has previously welcomed royal guests including the Duchess of Cambridge to the show, said: 'I am really honoured to receive this award and quite moved really, especially at the Stars of Norfolk Awards when there are so many people who do so much for their community.

'I am very proud to have given so many young people opportunities to perform live at Thursford.

'To have so many people come to Norfolk who wouldn't normally come, to see the Thursford show, it's fantastic.'

Brave Deryn Blackwell, 14, was given the Special Recognition Award for the spirit he has shown while battling a rare duo of cancers.

His story left many reaching for the tissues as the former Wayland Academy student told the audience how he is now a picture of health.

Deryn is thought to be the only person in the world to have had leukaemia and Langerhans cell sarcoma at the same time.

His supportive family were forced to move to Bristol last year after recovering from a bone marrow transplant at a specialist hospital there.

Despite an unsure future for Deryn – this time last year he was planning his own funeral – he is now looking forward to enjoying a normal childhood.

His mum, Callie Blackwell, said after the awards: 'Deryn's face shone with happiness and I know that he never thought he would get an award like that.

'He still even now doesn't realise how special he is and that's what makes him so special.'

And 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk were also recogisned for their work and commitment in the region with the second Special Recognition Award of the night.

In a particularly poignant part of the evening, the brave young fallen crew from HH-60G Pave Hawk, part of 48th Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, were remembered.

Capt Christopher Stover, Capt Sean Ruane, Tech Sgt Dale Mathews and Staff Sgt Afton Ponce died on a training mission near Cley in the north of the county in January this year.

The loss of the four US aircrew was marked by their colleagues who went on stage and thanked Norfolk for their support during their tragic time in January.

However their legacy lives on with the fantastic work that the 48th Fighter Wing does in our region and across the world.

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