Belfast Telegraph

Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards 2019: We’re looking for your nominations

Complete your entry form at www.sundaylife.co.uk/spirit

Specsavers Tony McGinn and Sean McCauley with Martin Breen, Pamela Ballantine and Marc Mallett launch the 2019 Spirit Of Northern Ireland awards.
Specsavers Tony McGinn and Sean McCauley with Martin Breen, Pamela Ballantine and Marc Mallett launch the 2019 Spirit Of Northern Ireland awards.

The search is on for Northern Ireland’s unsung heroes who have changed your life or the lives of people in your local community.

Sunday Life has again teamed up with Specsavers for the biggest date in the local awards calendar - the Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards - which will mark its 10th anniversary this year.

We want your nominations for who you think is worthy of a Spirit of Northern Ireland Award in 2019, by selflessly serving others and being an inspiration to us all.

The awards gala ceremony, which is being held in Titanic Belfast on June 5 and hosted by TV presenters Pamela Ballantine and Marc Mallett, will be shown on UTV in a one hour special.

There is a total of 10 categories, including awards for Unsung Hero, Charity Champion, 999 Hero, Spirit of Health, Spirit of Education, Spirit of Youth and Spirit of Sport.

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

Whether for demonstrating a spirit of compassion, neighbourliness, charity, courage or devotion, or going beyond the call of duty in the fields of education, the emergency services, the caring sector, health or sport, all nominations are welcome.

Like previous years the audience will be filled with many local celebrities supporting the event and eager to hear the incredible stories of the finalists.

These awards restore your faith in human nature and that’s wonderful. Eamonn Holmes

Well known personalities who have supported the awards in recent years include TV presenter Eamonn Holmes, X Factor judge Louis Walsh, Derry Girls stars Ian McElhinney and Jamie-Lee O’Donnell, boxing champs Carl Frampton and Ryan Burnett, The Fall actresses Bronagh Waugh and Niamh McGrady, Game of Thrones star Kristian Nairn as well as Northern Ireland football manager Michael O’Neill and some of his star players. Soap actors from Emmerdale and Coronation Street also attend annually.

Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Ian McElhinney and Jamie-Lee O'Donnell with fans at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards
Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Ian McElhinney and Jamie-Lee O'Donnell with fans at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Charlene O'Donnell, Jamie-Lee O'Donnell and Kevina Saunders pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Alex McMahon from Newry was given an award for Special Recognition by the judges of the Spirit of Northern Ireland awards. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Jamie-Lee O'Donnell at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Spirit of Northern Ireland 2018. Martin Breen with James Burrows and Ryan Clayton from Coronation Street
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards SPIRIT OF EDUCATION Winners of the Spirit of Education award, the Buddy Up! team collect their trophy from Tim McGarry, his co-star, Damon Quinn and Sofra Frost from category sponsor Studyseed. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. The team was one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. (from left to right) Cushla Mallon, Nuala Gallagher, Nancy McGrath and Lisa Dietrich accept the award for Buddy Up Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards SPIRIT OF EDUCATION Winners of the Spirit of Education award, the Buddy Up! team collect their trophy from Tim McGarry, his co-star, Damon Quinn and Sofra Frost from category sponsor Studyseed. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. The team was one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Vivienne Devenny, Jenevieve Devenny and Sarah Devenny at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards CHARITY CHAMPION Fiona Simpson from Limavady was named Charity Champion at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards. Presenting Fiona with her award is Jon Noonan from category sponsor, Best Parties Ever, along with Q Radio's Cate Conway and former Coronation St. actor, Charlie Lawson. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. Fiona was one of ten winners on the night which was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, Belfast. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Louis Walsh and fans at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards - Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Ian McElhinney and Jamie-Lee O'Donnell at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Louis Walsh and fans at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Special Recognition Alex McMahon from Newry was given an award for Special Recognition by the judges of the Spirit of Northern Ireland awards. Alex receives his award from X Factor judge Louis Walsh and members of the judging panel, Tony McGinn from Specsavers and Editor of the Sunday Life, Martin Breen. Alex was one of ten winners one the night which was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and selected for the help he gives to his mum in looking after his younger siblings. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Special Recognition Alex McMahon from Newry was given an award for Special Recognition by the judges of the Spirit of Northern Ireland awards. Alex receives his award from X Factor judge Louis Walsh and members of the judging panel, Tony McGinn from Specsavers and Editor of the Sunday Life, Martin Breen. Alex was one of ten winners one the night which was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and selected for the help he gives to his mum in looking after his younger siblings. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards UNSUNG HERO Winner of the Unsung Hero award, is the Shankill based group, Community First. The team of volunteers collect their award from Coronations Street star, Ryan Clayton and James Burrows and Caroline Rafferty from category sponsor, Homecare Independent Living. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. Community First was one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Special Recognition Alex McMahon from Newry was given an award for Special Recognition by the judges of the Spirit of Northern Ireland awards. Alex receives his award from X Factor judge Louis Walsh and members of the judging panel, Tony McGinn from Specsavers and Editor of the Sunday Life, Martin Breen. Alex was one of ten winners one the night which was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel and selected for the help he gives to his mum in looking after his younger siblings. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Marc Mallett with Coronations Street star, Ryan Clayton and James Burrows at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Marc Mallett with Louis Walsh at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Carmel Milne is the one holding the award wth Sinead Hutchinson in red dress 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards SPIRIT OF HEALTH Winners of the Spirit of Health award, the Eating Disorder Team from CAMHS at Antrim Area Hospital collect their award from Aideen Duggan, from category sponsor Keenan Healthcare and Gaynor Faye. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. The Eating Disorder Team was one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Winner of the Overcoming Adversity award, Peter Dolan from Omagh, is presented with his trophy by Jill Campbell, Specsavers Northern Ireland, boxer Paddy Barnes and Dominic Burnt from Emmerdale. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. Peter was one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Carmel Milne is the one holding the award wth Sinead Hutchinson in red dress 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards SPIRIT OF HEALTH Winners of the Spirit of Health award, the Eating Disorder Team from CAMHS at Antrim Area Hospital collect their award from Aideen Duggan, from category sponsor Keenan Healthcare and Gaynor Faye. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. The Eating Disorder Team was one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards OVERCOMING ADVERSITY Winner of the Overcoming Adversity award, Peter Dolan from Omagh, is presented with his trophy by Jill Campbell, Specsavers Northern Ireland, boxer Paddy Barnes and Dominic Burnt from Emmerdale. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. Peter was one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards OVERCOMING ADVERSITY Winner of the Overcoming Adversity award, Peter Dolan from Omagh, is presented with his trophy by Jill Campbell, Specsavers Northern Ireland, boxer Paddy Barnes and Dominic Burnt from Emmerdale. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. Peter was one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards SPIRIT OF YOUTH Winner of the Spirit of Youth award, Emily Magee, age 8 from Co. Fermanagh, is presented with her trophy by Eamonn McFadden, from category sponsor Harvey Norman and 'Derry Girl' Jamie Lee O'Donnell. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. Emily was one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards OVERCOMING ADVERSITY Winner of the Overcoming Adversity award, Peter Dolan from Omagh, is presented with his trophy by Jill Campbell, Specsavers Northern Ireland, boxer Paddy Barnes and Dominic Burnt from Emmerdale. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. Peter was one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Marc Mallett and Jamie-Lee O'Donnell at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Receiving the award for Caring Spirit on behalf of her and her husband Alistair, is Pearl Brown from Warrenpoint. Pearl was presented with her trophy from actor Ian McElhinney and Gemma Louise Bond from category sponsor, Power NI. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. The Browns were one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Sunday Life. Spirit of northern Ireland Awards 2018 Ian McElhinney – Derry Girls and Game of Thrones and wife Marie Jones. Picture Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Receiving the award for Caring Spirit on behalf of her and her husband Alistair, is Pearl Brown from Warrenpoint. Pearl was presented with her trophy from actor Ian McElhinney and Gemma Louise Bond from category sponsor, Power NI. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. The Browns were one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Sunday Life. Spirit of northern Ireland Awards 2018 Jamie-Lee O’Donnell from Derry Girls Picture Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Receiving the award for Caring Spirit on behalf of her and her husband Alistair, is Pearl Brown from Warrenpoint. Pearl was presented with her trophy from actor Ian McElhinney and Gemma Louise Bond from category sponsor, Power NI. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. The Browns were one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Sunday Life. Spirit of northern Ireland Awards 2018. Ryan Burnett and Lara Milner Picture Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Marc Mallett with actor Ian McElhinney at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Sunday Life. Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards 2018 Dominic Brunt from Emmerdale, Gaynor Faye from Emmerdale Picture Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards 999 HERO Fire-fighter Noel McKee was named 999 Hero at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards. Presenting Noel with his trophy are stars of The Fall, Bronagh Waugh and Niamh McGrady along with Ciara Daly who sponsored the category. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. Mark was one of ten winners on the night which was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards 999 HERO Fire-fighter Noel McKee was named 999 Hero at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards. Presenting Noel with his trophy are stars of The Fall, Bronagh Waugh and Niamh McGrady along with Ciara Daly who sponsored the category. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. Mark was one of ten winners on the night which was held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Sunday Life. Spirit of northern Ireland Awards 2018 Picture Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life
Sunday Life. Spirit of northern Ireland Awards 2018. Louis Walsh Picture Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life
Sunday Life. Spirit of northern Ireland Awards 2018 Ciara Daly makeup with Niamh McGrady and Bronagh Waugh from The Fall Picture Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life
Sunday Life. Spirit of northern Ireland Awards 2018. Ryan Burnett and Lara Milner Picture Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life
Sunday Life. Spirit of northern Ireland Awards 2018 Ian McElhinney – Derry Girls and Game of Thrones Picture Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life
Sunday Life. Spirit of northern Ireland Awards 2018 Picture Colm O'Reilly Sunday Life
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Pamela Ballantine with Bronagh Waugh and Niamh McGrady 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Gemma Garrett at the Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards 2018
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Tim McGarry, Colin Neill, Louis Walsh, Joel Neill and Gerry White pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Niamh, Ben, Peter and Dervla Dolan pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Guests from Bangor Specsavers pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Stevey Lennox and Marian Lennox pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Emma Horan, Jayne Hamilton and Siofra Frost with Louis Walsh pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Sopecsavers Lisburn staff with Louis Walsh pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
James Burrows, Ryan Clayton and Louis Walsh pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Tony McGinn, Eibhlin McGinn, Sian McGinn, Mona McGinn and Edel McGinn with Nicola and Alison Crimmins pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Martin Breen, Marie Jones and Ian McElhinney pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Paula Cunningham and Katie Nugent with Nicola and Alison Crimmins pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Marc Mallett and Pamela Ballantine with Nicola and Alison Crimmins pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Fiona Brown, Siobhan O'Sullivan, Pamela Ballantine, Sarah Weir, Joanne Harvey and Kerry Harding pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Ryan Burnett and Laura Milner pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards - Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Martin Breen, Ryan Burnett and Laura Milner pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Jenny Lyness, Victoria Glenn, Deirdre Forsythe. Sandra Mutch, and Sheryl White pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Philip and Sandra Mutch pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Christina and Brian O'Kane pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Charlene O'Donnell, Jamie-Lee O'Donnell and Kevina Saunders pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Deborah Kilpatrick and Valerie McCullough pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Alison and Laura Crimmins pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Carlissa Neill and Glen Jameson pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 20th April 2018 - Karen Malone and Anne Gallagher pictured at the 2018 Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Other sporting faces who have attended include Ulster and Ireland rugby stars Rory Best and Craig Gilroy, racing legend AP McCoy and Olympic boxer Paddy Barnes.

Louis Walsh, who sat on the judging panel for the awards, said afterwards: “It’s a brilliant night because it’s about normal people with real stories, about them overcoming so many difficulties but who are happy with their lives.”

Eamonn Holmes, who has also been a judge, has urged people to nominate, saying: "What blew me away was how many of these people don’t care about money or status, it’s about other people.

“Let us know about anyone who should be recognised, blow the trumpet for them. If they have done something that deserves that sort of acknowledgement, then show us and raise our expectation of what the Spirit of Northern Ireland really is.”

Sunday Life editor Martin Breen said that the 10th anniversary bash will also honour many of the previous Spirit of Northern Ireland Award winners over the years for their great deeds.

He added: “We want people to nominate those who have made a difference to their lives or who have gone over and beyond to help their local community. We will be celebrating all that is good about Northern Ireland as we mark 10 years of these wonderful awards, so we need people to tell us about their unsung heroes who deserve recognition.

While there will be many famous faces in the audience the real stars of the night will be our finalists and winners. Sunday Life editor Martin Breen

“It is humbling to meet those incredible award nominees every year, and I look forward to hearing more inspirational stories about the amazing people in the lives of our readers.”

Chairman of Specsavers in Northern Ireland, Sean McCauley said: “Specsavers are thrilled to partner the fabulous Spirit of Northern Ireland awards programme which this year celebrates its 10th anniversary. Year on year the awards throw a spotlight on so many brilliant people and how they individually have made such a huge difference to their local community, town or village and the people who live there.

“Speaking on behalf of staff in our 22 Specsavers stores, we’d like to urge the public to put forward an inspirational unsung hero of any age, who they feel richly deserves this very special recognition.

“We’re looking forward to a wonderful awards evening in June marking 10 years of these remarkable community awards.”

Awards categories:

Unsung hero

Someone whose great deed or deeds have previously gone unnoticed, but who will have made a major contribution to your life or to your community.

Overcoming adversity

Someone who has overcome huge personal challenges, whether it is dealing with illness or disability or overcoming problems.

Spirit of youth

Someone under the age of 18 who should be recognised for their special achievements.

999 hero

A member of the emergency services who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in their job.

Charity champion

Someone who has worked tirelessly for a charity or as a fundraiser for many years.

Spirit of health

A medical professional who has gone the extra mile to improve the health and well-being of their patients.

Spirit of education

This award recognises a truly inspirational teacher who has helped children and young people fulfil their potential.

Caring spirit award

A person, young or old, who has dedicated their time to caring for a friend or family member.

Spirit of sport

Someone who has made an exceptional contribution to local sport over a number of years.

Special recognition award

Someone who the judges feel represents the Spirit of Northern Ireland by selflessly serving others and being an inspiration to us all.

Our role of honour:

Here are just some of our winners over the past decade of the awards:

Oscar Knox

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Wee Oscar collecting the prize for the overall winner of the Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards in 2013
 

When wee Oscar Knox took to the stage in 2013 to be crowned our Spirit of Northern Ireland winner, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house at the Culloden Hotel.

Tears fell in admiration for this courageous child, then just four years old, who had endured so much pain, yet kept smiling and, it was thought, had finally won his battle.

Many more tears were shed less than a year later when the heroic young boy, in the words of his loving parents Leona and Stephen “gained his angel wings”.

Thanks to his parents’ Fearless Oscar Knox campaign, the story of this incredibly brave little boy, from Mallusk in Newtownabbey, captured the imagination of us all - and united our communities.

Davitt Walsh

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Unsung Hero: Davitt Walsh at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards sponsored by Supersavers at the Culloden Estate & Spa resort in Holywood.
 

Brave Davitt still doesn’t believe that he’s a hero, despite saving the life of beautiful baby Rionaghac-Ann.

He risked his life to save the then four-month-old baby after her father’s car went down a slipway in a horrendous drowning tragedy.

Davitt dived into the freezing water at Buncrana harbour and swam out to the sinking car in March 2016.

Inside were five members of one Londonderry family who all perished: Ruth Daniels (57), her daughter Jodie Lee Daniels (14), her son-in-law Sean McGrotty (49) and his sons Mark (12) and eight-year-old Evan.

But brave Davitt managed to rescue baby Rionaghac-Ann by raising her up and swimming back to safety. Rionaghac-Ann is the only surviving member of mother Louise James’ family.

Just months later, the 32-year-old footballer, from Kerrykeel, Co Donegal, received our Unsung Hero and Overall Winner awards to a standing ovation from guests at the packed Culloden Hotel, including then First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Colin Bell

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Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards sponsored by Specsavers at the Culloden Estate & Spa resort in Holywood. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
 

The Newry man was presented with the Overcoming Adversity award by one of his sporting heroes, top local jockey Sir Anthony McCoy.

He was honoured for his work with the Kevin Bell Repatriation Trust, which he set up in memory of his 26-year-old son, who died in a suspected hit-and-run in New York in June 2013. As soon as news of Kevin’s tragic death broke, the people of Newry sprung into action to support the family and within days had raised a staggering £150,000 to help bring his body back home.

Fortunately, the family did not need the money because Kevin’s employers in New York paid to have him brought back home. They instead decided to use the money to help others.

Since then, Colin (65), with the help of wife Eithne, has helped bring home the bodies of more than 300 people to Ireland, including those of Sister Clare Crockett, who died in the 2016 Ecuador earthquake, and Danielle McLaughlin, from Buncrana, who was murdered in Goa last year.

Willie Gregg

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The Overall Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland winner 2017 is Willie Gregg from Coleraine. Presenting Willie with his award is Martin Breen, editor of the Sunday Life, Brian OÕKane, Chairman, Specsavers Northern Ireland and member of the judging panel, Eamonn Holmes. Willie was one of ten winners one the night which was held at the Culloden Resort and Spa.
 

The popular Coleraine barman, who has dedicated his life to helping people in need, was the overall Spirit of Northern Ireland winner in 2017.

Big-hearted Willie is well-known across Northern Ireland for his incredible charity work, having raised at least £500,000 for charity over the years, and also as the jovial manager of the popular Harbour Bar in Portrush.

He is best-known for setting up Willie’s Orphan Fund in the wake of the tsunami in Thailand in 2004. He committed himself to raising £2,000 a month to help the orphans - a challenge he has kept, and to date has raised around £300,000 for them alone.

An orphanage was built, and not only has Willie provided for their basic needs, but he has also secured the future of hundreds through an education fund, helping many of them go to university.

Sergeant Mark Wright

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PSNI Sergeant Mark Wright was named 999 Hero at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards. Presenting Mark with his trophy is Miss Northern Ireland Anna Henry and Emmerdale Star, Gaynor Faye. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. Mark was one of ten winners on the night which was held at the Culloden Resort and Spa.
 

A policeman who risked his life to rescue two children was our 999 Hero at the 2017 Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers.

PSNI Sergeant Mark Wright didn’t hesitate when he was called to a serious incident in Lurgan following reports that a thug had assaulted a number of women before locking himself in a house with a toddler and a baby.

Even though he sustained serious injuries when he was stabbed in the head and face by the man, Mark bravely wrestled him to the ground as he was attempting to stab a police colleague in the neck. The arrested man is now serving seven years in prison.

Jay Beattie

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Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards sponsored by Specsavers at the Culloden Estate & Spa resort in Holywood. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
 

The football-mad Lurgan schoolboy is only 14 years old but has made such a huge impact that he needs no introduction as everyone will have heard of him.

He was the toast of the province three years ago when he won the overall award at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers.

Jay has become a hero for people with Down’s syndrome, helping change perceptions and winning the hearts of some of the world’s biggest football stars and their fans along the way.

The Celtic fan won fans across the world when then Celtic manager Neil Lennon spotted him in the crowd at Celtic Park in 2014 and presented him with his SPL winner’s medal.

Striker Georgios Samaras then took a jubilant Jay in his arms and did a lap of honour on the pitch. A touching online video of the special moment - now one of many starring Jay - has been watched by millions worldwide. At the match, Jay was invited onto the pitch at half time to take a penalty and the crowd erupted when he scored. It was filmed and entered into a goal of the month contest, which led to a landslide vote of 97% making him the only non-professional footballer in the world to win the Scottish Goal of the Month award.

Peter Dolan

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Winner of the Overcoming Adversity award, Peter Dolan from Omagh, is presented with his trophy by Jill Campbell, Specsavers Northern Ireland, boxer Paddy Barnes and Dominic Burnt from Emmerdale. Also pictured are ambassadors from title sponsor Specsavers, Nicola and Alison Crimmins. Peter was one of ten winners at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye
 

Peter Dolan’s world was shattered when his teenage son Enda was killed by a drunk driver shortly after starting university in Belfast in October 2014.

In the dark days after the 18-year-old’s death, the distraught dad, who won our Overcoming Adversity Award sponsored by Specsavers last year, channelled his grief into establishing a charity in his son’s memory.

The Enda Dolan Foundation is a fitting legacy to the bright and talented young man, focusing on improving the physical and mental health of thousands of people.

It all started when keen runner Peter created the Run For Enda, which attracts thousands of participants each year, all running in memory of his beloved son.

He has also established numerous six-week couch-to-5k running programmes, which he coaches himself, inspiring and leading his community towards a healthier lifestyle.

The 51-year-old, from Killyclogher in Co Tyrone, has improved the lives of many people in the Omagh area by introducing the successful Park Run to the town, which attracts hundreds.

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