| 11.4°C Belfast

Fab four: Our tribute to those showing the right spirit in battle against coronavirus


Meet this week's fantastic four Covid-19 heroes who have raised a lot more than smiles during long months of lockdown.

As we can't hold the Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards ceremony due to the public health crisis, Sunday Life and Ulster Bank have teamed up to honour them for their vital roles during the pandemic and give each £150 of shopping vouchers, plus a certificate of recognition.

On our judging panel for the Spirit of Northern Ireland Covid-19 Heroes awards initiative is Derry Girls star Jamie-Lee O'Donnell, Q Radio presenter Jordan Humphries, champion boxer Carl Frampton and representatives from Sunday Life and Ulster Bank.

Close

Clara Maybin pictured at her home with some of the garments made by thousands of volunteers which will be used by the NHS.

Clara Maybin pictured at her home with some of the garments made by thousands of volunteers which will be used by the NHS.

Clara Maybin pictured at her home with some of the garments made by thousands of volunteers which will be used by the NHS.

Clara Maybin

In a matter of weeks this mum-of-two had amassed a volunteer sewing army putting out thousands of items of PPE (personal protective equipment) in what would become the NI Scrubs Group.

Omagh woman Clara, who works in digital marketing and admits she knew nothing about sewing before the pandemic, now reckons the group has made more than 100,000 gowns, masks, scrubs and bags.

"It was very much an accident, my husband's aunt is a nurse in the Covid-19 ward in Enniskillen and she put into the family group chat back in March that the availability of scrubs was way down," she explained.

"I thought I would use Facebook and try to help and it just spiralled from there, within one day we had 80 people and now there is nearly 9,000."

NI Scrubs was doing such a good job that they were asked if they would be up to becoming an official supplier to the health service but couldn't due to the 10,000-a-week requirement.

Clara added: "A lot of people said to me it was even helping their mental health as they were sitting worrying about Covid-19 and this had taken their mind off it."

Although we all hope there is no second wave, Clara said at least the group would be ready to go immediately if they were needed again.

Sam Mcclean

Samuel McClean

The fundraising efforts of Shankill signmaker Samuel will take some beating as they are expected to top £100,000 at the final count.

The Belfast man has even been recognised by the prime minister for his 'Thank You NHS' signs which have popped up in the windows of homes, cars and shops in nearly every corner of Northern Ireland.

"I made a wee blue balloon with 'Thank You NHS' for my wife, who's a nurse, and stuck it on our car and then a mate's taxi," explained Samuel.

"It ballooned from there and within the first week there was £22,000 raised, then Musgrave decided to put it into Supervalu, Centra and Mace, so I know that it's over £100,000 but I'm not sure just how much."

But the 47-year-old is determined to keep using his business, Sign Link, to raise money for good causes such as community rescue teams who were so dedicated in the search for tragic Belfast teenager Noah Donohoe.

Close

 Geoffrey Aiken

Geoffrey Aiken

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Geoffrey Aiken

Geoffrey Aiken

Geoffrey has been doing his rounds in Royal Mail regulation red for 30 years but a dare from his nephew and a change of clothes saw him raise £3,000 for a food bank.

The Ballymena man donned all manner of fancy dress outfits to deliver the post during lockdown, much to the delight of his generous regulars.

"My nephew said 'are you up for it?' and I wrote back and said 'why not?'," explained Geoffrey. "Because of the restrictions on movements they weren't getting as many donations so I thought if I was going to do it I might as well do it for something."

Finding himself short of fancy dress costumes a Facebook appeal saw donations of everything from a cow onesie to a post box.

He also secured permission from the powers-that-be in Royal Mail headquarters to collect actual donations of food left out by residents on the local routes for the food bank.

"Any postman in the Ballymena area could lift groceries that were marked for the food bank," said Geoffrey.

"From the start it was great fun, if only in life you could make people smile as easily as that every other day it would be nice.

"I genuinely don't feel like a hero at all."

Close

Conor McCann at his station in Irvinestown.  J McVitty 25 June 2020

Conor McCann at his station in Irvinestown. J McVitty 25 June 2020

Conor McCann at his station in Irvinestown. J McVitty 25 June 2020

Conor McCann

Driving instructor Conor hasn't sat idle during the pandemic but raised more than £20,000 for charity through his part-time act DJ Rockstar.

The Irvinestown man, helped by his brother Niall and sister Seana, started doing a weekly online themed disco on Saturday nights, which began with friends and soon got viewers from as far afield as New Zealand.

The DJ Rockstar Community Fund soon saw donations flooding in. With a total of £20,000 to date he has been able to help more than a dozen organisations across Fermanagh and the south west, from hospices to care homes and community groups.

Meet our final batch of Covid-19 heroes in next week's paper

Belfast Telegraph