It is that time of year again when you can nominate ordinary people doing extraordinary things right across Northern Ireland.
As we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic we want you to tell us about the heroes in your life and in the lives of your local community for the 2022 Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards in association with Ulster Bank.
We have once again teamed up with Ulster Bank to seek out and celebrate Northern Ireland’s unsung heroes — the people who have made a difference to the lives of others with no thought of reward or recognition.
The Spirit of NI recognises people who go above and beyond for others — people such as the 2021 winner of our Special Recognition award Peter Heathwood, who campaigned for 13 years to secure recognition and a pension for victims of the Troubles.
PSNI chief inspector for Fermanagh and Omagh Graham Dodds took home our 999 Hero award last year after saving the life of a nine-year-old boy by donating a kidney in May.
Our Spirit of Health award went to dedicated children’s palliative care nurse Deirdre Armstrong, from Downpatrick, who retired earlier this year after 40 years of service.
Phillip and Alison Armstrong, from Cookstown, who won our Caring Spirit Award, rescued an old friend who had fallen on hard times. They gave him a new start in life only for tragedy to strike a few months later when he was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.
Cathy Burns, a very special primary school classroom assistant, picked up our Spirit of Education award. As well as devoting herself to the children and staff at St Dympna’s Primary School in Dromore, she’s also a tireless volunteer who goes out of her way to help people less fortunate than her.
Belfast man Jahswill Emmanuel picked up our Charity Champion award.
The brave 34-year-old was seriously injured in a vicious racist attack in 2012 that left him with post-traumatic stress disorder. In 2016, he established Multi-Ethnic Sports and Culture Northern Ireland, a charity which has helped hundreds of people from a wide range of cultural backgrounds.
Our Unsung Hero award was presented to a lady who devotes her life to helping depressed people. Inspirational Carlee Letson has saved thousands of lives through a suicide prevention charity she set up in Larne, her hometown.
There was delight for the Co Down village of Drumaness when local hero Darren McQuoid picked up our Spirit of Sport award. Darren transformed life for families by establishing a thriving youth football club to which he devotes hours of his time.
Our Spirit of Youth award was presented to a delighted 13-year-old, Aine Hamill, from Portstewart, in recognition of how she supported her mum through her battle with cancer. Aine also walked 5km every day for 30 days to raise more than £12,000 for cancer research.
It is individuals and groups like these we want you to nominate for one of 11 awards this year.
All of our categories are listed here today, including awards for Unsung Hero, Charity Champion, 999 Hero, Spirit of Health, Spirit of Education, Spirit of Youth and Spirit of Sport.
We are seeking people who have demonstrated a spirit of compassion, neighbourliness, charity, courage or devotion, or those who have gone beyond the call of duty in the fields of education, the emergency services, the caring sector, health or sport, all nominations are welcome.
The awards ceremony will take place on Friday, September 30, at the Culloden Resort and Spa in Cultra with rock legends Ash playing a special performance on the night.
Accomplished Belfast actor Ian McElhinney, star of Derry Girls, Game of Thrones and Bloodlands, is a long term supporter of the awards and has again urged people to nominate
Ian, who is also a member of the awards judging panel with Loose Women presenter Gloria Hunniford, said: “There will no doubt have been lots of people who have done extraordinary things in the context of Covid and everything else, many who are utterly selfless in what they have done or had to do for friends, family, neighbours or whoever.
“I am sure there will be some extraordinary stories to come out.”
Asked what his grumpy Derry Girls character would make of the awards, he replied: “Granda Joe, for all his bluster and front, would be very appreciative of people doing the right thing by the people who are most deserving.
“However, there are some people in Granda Joe’s books who would not be deserving and we think we know who they are.”
Terry Robb, head of retail banking NI at Ulster Bank, said: “We are extremely honoured to support the Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards again this year and working with the team at the Sunday Life to celebrate those remarkable individuals and organisations who make such a difference to those around them.
“A big part of our purpose at Ulster Bank is to help local communities to thrive which is why these awards are such a good fit for us. We are really looking forward to receiving entries this year and learning more about the brilliant community heroes who deserve to be celebrated. We are especially pleased to see the return of the climate recognition category this year which, given the urgency of tackling climate change, feels particularly important.
“If you have an inspirational family member, a colleague or a neighbour who has gone above and beyond in the service of others then please do get your nominations in, either by visiting the Sunday Life website or by picking up a nomination form in one of our branches.”
Sunday Life and Belfast Telegraph deputy editor-in-chief, Martin Breen, said that he expects these awards to be bigger and better than ever after the past few years of the pandemic and lockdowns.
He said: “Please tell us about those everyday heroes in your life — people who have gone above and beyond for you, a loved one, their community or wider society.
“Every year it is such an honour to read the inspirational and humbling stories of those people our readers have nominated. Their selflessness is just breathtaking.
“There are heartbreaking but also uplifting stories, all of which are a privilege to read and it is a real honour to meet our finalists at the event. If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything it is that our local community is full of people prepared to go above and beyond to help others.
“We are very grateful for Ulster Bank’s support in making these prestigious awards happen again.”
AWARDS CATEGORIES AND HOW TO NOMINATE:
Unsung Hero (sponsored by The Boulevard)
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.
Someone who has overcome huge personal challenges, whether it is dealing with illness or disability or overcoming problems.
Spirit of Youth (sponsored by Better)
Someone under the age of 18 who should be recognised for their special achievements.
999 Hero (sponsored by Shield Accident Management)
A member of the emergency services who has gone above and beyond the call of duty in their job.
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 (sponsored by Power NI)
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.
Climate Hero (sponsored by Concentrix)
Seeks to recognise an individual or community group going the extra mile to care for and protect the local environment for future generations.
Someone who the judges feel represents the Spirit of Northern Ireland by selflessly serving others and being an inspiration to us all.
Nominations will be received up until August 22. To nominate someone couldn’t be easier. Simply email your nominations to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us the story of the person who has made a difference. You can also post nominations to us at Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards, 33 Clarendon Road, Belfast, BT1 3BG