Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

The local heroes whose lives are an inspiration

Riverside pupils James Poole, Ben Gibson, Thomas Blade, teacher Sarah Ballantine, Ciara Redmond and Luke Monaghan celebrate their nomination in the Best Garden category.

Inspirational people, projects and schools are being praised for their efforts in improving the lives of others across Northern Ireland.

The Belfast Telegraph Making The Difference Awards, in association with Spar, have uncovered examples of neighbours, volunteers and whole streets of people who have made a positive impact.

The search to find the unsung heroes from all walks of life has struck a chord with readers.

Among nominations that have come into the Belfast Telegraph this month is Belfast Street League, a football programme for homeless people. Launched this year it has given great opportunities to disadvantaged people.

Nominator Heather Law, a project worker at Belfast hostel Hosford House, said: "The sheer diversity of people has given them a positive focus that not only keeps them fit but develops discipline and breaks down racial and political divisions."

A 999 Hero with a difference has been nominated this month.

Dylan the dog worked on countless rescue missions both in Northern Ireland and abroad.

He was a mountain rescue search dog as part of Search And Rescue Dog Association (Ireland North) SARDA(IN). Sadly, he died earlier this year aged 16, but has been nominated posthumously by his former colleagues.

Neil Powell, call out co-ordinator and training officer with SARDA(IN), described Dylan as "a great dog".

Pete Brown, chairman of SARDA(IN), who made the nomination, said: "He served Neil, Search And Rescue Dog Association (Ireland North), the lost and injured throughout Ireland and beyond tirelessly, without question and with pride."

A wonderful sensory garden in Antrim has transformed lives of pupils at Riverside Special School.

Nominated by teacher Eamon Doherty, he said: "It challenges their senses with colour, taste, smells, sounds and textures that can be found in the natural world."

Despite the great response we'd like to receive even more nominations and hear who is Making The Difference in your life.

Readers can put forward the name of the person, group or local business in one of 11 categories -- from Spirit of Youth to Carer in the Community.

Three finalists will then be chosen from each category and a winner selected by our judging panel.

The overall winner will then be chosen. The awards will be presented at a gala night in the Grand Opera House on March 9.

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