Belfast Telegraph

Motormouth May lost for words at Making the Difference Awards

Tears and laughter as Ulster’s unsung heroes and heroines are recognised in a night of high emotion

By Sarah Rainey

He has graced the stage for more than 20 years — but last night he got the biggest round of applause of his career.

Comedian John Linehan was the winner of the Belfast Telegraph Making The Difference Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Community in Northern Ireland.

There were tears, laughs and well-deserved praise as winners in 11 categories joined John, known to many as May McFettridge, on stage at a star-studded gala event at Belfast’s Grand Opera House.

Our Making The Difference Awards, in association with SPAR, recognises the inspirational work done by the unsung heroes helping others in their daily lives.

From enterprising children and brave neighbours to charity projects and selfless carers, the prizes aim to highlight the good news stories that often go unreported.

After being whittled down from hundreds of nominations from across Northern Ireland, last night 11 amazing winners were given the recognition and thanks they deserve.

There were smiles all round as John was awarded the overall Making The Difference Award in recognition of his contribution to the Northern Ireland Hospice and local group Children in Crossfire.

John, who works hard behind the scenes to organise community golf events, sponsored walks and charity days, received a standing ovation as he picked up the surprise award.

He said he was “absolutely flabbergasted” to be recognised among so many deserving winners at the ceremony.

“I can’t believe it — I’m shaking here. Thank you all so much.”

The award for Best School went to the Belfast Hospital School, which helps sick children continue their education during treatment for life-threatening illnesses.

Collecting the award on behalf of the school, pupil Hayley McKee (24) said the teachers had been her “guiding lights” while she was in hospital. “The school was the best thing that ever happened to me in my life,” she said.

“The amount of work that is done is unbelievable — I’ve been with them for 10 years, and they help everyone, no matter what.”

Brave Coleraine man Peter McMullan was presented with the Best Neighbour award for his quick-thinking rescue of a pensioner who had collapsed in her home, while Adam Kaleta (17) won the Best Carer award for his tireless care of his disabled mother Katrina.

Adam, said what he did was “second nature”, adding: “I just do what I can to help my mum.”

Pat McKay, who lost both her husband and son to Huntingdon’s disease, collected the prize for Best Volunteer for her work for sufferers of the incurable illness.

The 44 finalists enjoyed a glittering night of music, dance, drama and comedy from more than 130 performers who paid tribute to their inspiring stories at the Grand Opera House in Belfast.

World champion drummer Mark Wilson and singer Peter Corry performed during the show, while teenage dance group Razzle Dazzle showcased a set from their recent television appearance.

Coronation Street actor Charlie Lawson came on stage to present the award for Best Street to Tavanagh Street in south Belfast, and the prize for Best Garden went to the blooming community allotment in Divis Tower.

Glenn Wray (11) was the proud winner of the 999 Hero award for his courage and maturity in helping save the life of a stranger he found collapsed in the street.

Belfast Telegraph Editor Mike Gilson said the awards were a “resounding success”.

“When we began to think of ways we could showcase the huge numbers of unsung heroes, we had no idea that it would lead to such a great night,” he said.

“It’s been an amazing journey for us to see just how many there are out there.”

Paddy Doody from SPAR, sponsors of the Making The Difference Awards, said the event had been “truly spectacular”.

“From stories of astounding selflessness, compassion and self-preservation, to outstanding performances by community groups and local upcoming artists and performers, it was an evening that highlighted the best that Northern Ireland has to offer,” he said.

The Winners

Winners of the 2010 Belfast Telegraph Making the Difference Awards in association with Spar:

  • Best Street: Tavanagh Street
  • Best Neighbour: Peter McMullan
  • Best Volunteer: Pat McKay
  • Best School: Belfast Hospital School
  • Spirit of Youth: Ciaran Murphy
  • 999 Hero: Glenn Wray
  • Best Garden: Divis Community Garden
  • Service with a Smile: Daisies Cafe
  • Best Art/Sport/Community Project: Midnight Street Soccer
  • Best Carer: Adam Kaleta
  • Best Enterprise: Northstone NI
  • Making the Difference Award: John Linehan

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