Belfast Telegraph

Search for NI's unsung heroes

Help us to reward those special individuals who’ve selflessly helped others

Big Launch: Frank Mitchell, Pamela Ballentine, Sunday Life Editor Martin Breen and Specsavers representatives at the Culloden Estate and Spa
Big Launch: Frank Mitchell, Pamela Ballentine, Sunday Life Editor Martin Breen and Specsavers representatives at the Culloden Estate and Spa
Gala guest: X Factor star Amelia Lily will perform at the gala grand final
Winners: Janice and Richard Barr with award

Sunday Life and Specsavers have joined forces again this year to launch our search for Northern Ireland’s unsung heroes.

Click here to download nomination form

We are looking for men, women and children who you believe best capture the Spirit of Northern Ireland in 2012, by selflessly serving others and being an inspiration to us all.

The unique Northern Ireland-wide search will give recognition to those whose good deeds have previously gone mostly unnoticed.

The gala grand final for the Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers will take place on Wednesday, June 20 at the luxurious five-star Culloden Estate & Spa resort in Holywood.

And the nominees and guests will be in for a real treat as we have secured X Factor finalist Amelia Lily as the star attraction and headline performer to close the awards.

Hosting the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers this year will be UTV/U105’s Frank Mitchell and Pamela Ballentine, and just like previous years the audience will be filled with many local celebrities supporting the event and eager to hear the incredible stories behind the finalists.

Sunday Life and Specsavers are looking for ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to help others — people whose uplifting stories of selfless acts will touch the hearts of all who read them.

Whether for demonstrating a spirit of compassion, neighbourliness, charity, enterprise, courage or devotion, all nominations are welcome.

The winner of the overall Spirit of Northern Ireland Award will receive a holiday courtesy of our friends at bmibaby to thank them for all they have given to others. All category winners will receive a pair of flights to Amsterdam from bmibaby.

All those who submit nominations will automatically be entered into a prize draw to win a £150 eyecare voucher and a VIP experience at the awards, including an overnight stay at the Culloden, courtesy of Specsavers.

There are four awards in total: the Specsavers Overcoming Adversity Award, the Sunday Life Unsung Hero Award, the UTV/U105 Young Persons Award and the overall Spirit of Northern Ireland Award.

Five finalists from each of the three categories will feature in Sunday Life as well as on UTV and on U105.8FM radio station. One of the finalists, chosen by a judging panel from Sunday Life, Specsavers and UTV/U105.8FM, will also be named as the Spirit of Northern Ireland winner of 2012.

Specsavers’ Northerm Ireland chairman, Tony McGinn, said the company was proud to sponsor the event last year — so much so that they have committed to supporting it this year AND in 2013.

He said: ‘We had a wonderful event last year, where people from across Ulster were recognised for their achievements.

“Each Specsavers store is committed to its local community and the awards help us celebrate individuals who are often overlooked. We’re looking for ordinary people who have done extraordinary things, helping others through their compassion, courage or devotion.

“Each year the awards offer us a glimpse into the lives of people from across Northern Ireland, who often against adversity, care about and give so much back to their communities.

“The sponsorship is extremely important to Specsavers as we really believe in what the people in our society are doing for their communities.

“At Specsavers we care deeply about our customers and work hard to assist them on a daily basis. We understand how the smallest things can make a huge difference to those of us who are either visually impaired or suffer from hearing loss.

“The Spirit awards have the ability to touch every community and we are proud to publicly show our support for the individuals who make us proud to work, live and do business in Northern Ireland.”

Our Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards were started in 2009 when they were won by Billy McCrory, founder of the Shine A Light charity — set up for children battling cancer.

The Dundonald father-of-one started the Shine A Light charity 16 years ago with the aim of “improving the quality of life for young people diagnosed with cancer” and giving “children and their parents a feeling that they are not alone”.

Last year’s winner was the late Charlene Barr, who lost her battle with cystic fibrosis aged just 20-years-old.

Despite her illness, selfless Dollingstown girl Charlene worked tirelessly to raise £120,000 to build the Hidden Treasure primary school for children in Uganda’s Maya region while she was gravely ill and awaiting a life-saving double lung transplant — leaving an incredible legacy that saw her named the overall winner.

Charlene’s proud dad Richard said: “The Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards is such an appropriate name for the ceremony as that’s exactly what it’s celebrating,” he said.

“Charlene had so much belief in the people of Northern Ireland and their spirit of generosity — and they didn’t let her down. She was always so positive and humble — it was never about her but about the people she was helping.

“Charlene’s award was a moment my family will never, ever forget. She was our light, and her light still shines brightly.”

Sunday Life Editor Martin Breen said: “When we started the Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards three years ago, it was with the intention of celebrating ordinary people doing extraordinary things, and the stories we have heard have been incredible.

“The success of these awards, which get bigger and better each year, owes much to the support from Specsavers, as well as local celebrities who turn out to show their backing for all our worthy finalists.

“But most of all it is down to you, the people who nominate and have been nominated, as you are testimony to the undeniable fact that the spirit of Northern Ireland is alive and well — send in your nominations so that these unsung heroes get some deserved recognition.”

Nominate YOUR candidate for the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers by telling us in 50-100 words why you think that person should win.

Email your nomination to us at, post us the form or drop it into one of the 17 Specsavers stores in Northern Ireland. The closing date for entries is May 6. To find your closest Specsavers, log on to

  • The Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards grand final will be at held at the Culloden Estate and Spa on Wednesday, June 20. All the finalists will be invited to the glittering awards ceremony, which will include celebrity guests, headline performer Amelia Lily and features UTV stars Frank Mitchell and Pamela Ballentine as MCs on the night.

Tickets for the gala awards ceremony cost £55, which includes dinner, table wine and the top class entertainment, can be purchased from JPR, Sylvan House, 232-240, Belmont Office Park, Belfast, BT4 2AW; by phone at 028 9076 0066 or e-mailing:

The Award Categories

Sunday Life Unsung Hero

The name of this award says it all — someone whose great deed or deeds have hitherto gone unnoticed.

They will have made a major contribution to your life or to your community. They really will be an ordinary person who has done an extraordinary thing.

Specsavers Overcoming Adversity

This award recognises those who have overcome huge personal challenges. Whether it is dealing with illness or disability or overcoming a major problem, this person will have shown why they are an inspiration to others in overcoming adversity.

UTV / U105 Young Persons Award

This award honours young people (under the age of 18) for special achievements.

This could be an act of bravery, courage in dealing with an illness or problem or excelling in some aspect of life.

Their heartwarming stories will represent all that is good about the youth of Northern Ireland.

Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards terms and conditions

1. No Independent News & Media, Specsavers or UTV employees or their families may enter.

2. A Sunday Life editorial panel will choose the nominees to feature in the paper. A total of 15 finalists, five for each of the three categories, will be chosen by a team of judges from Sunday Life, Specsavers and UTV. This panel will also choose the overall winner.

3. The judges decisions are final and binding in all respects on all entrants. No correspondence will be entered into.

4. Nominees must live or work in Northern Ireland or have done so in recent past.

5. Nominees can only feature in the newspaper if they agree to publicity and have their photograph taken for publication by Sunday Life. They must also agree to appear on UTV and U105 if they are selected for the final.

6. This competition does not and is not intended to constitute a legal relationship between entrants and Independent News & Media.