Belfast Telegraph

Hunt for unsung heroes strikes a popular chord

By Victoria O'Hara

Nonimations to find Northern Ireland’s unsung heroes continue to flood in.

The Belfast Telegraph Making The Difference Awards, in association with Spar, is dedicated to honouring those special individuals, projects and businesses that make a positive impact to the daily lives of people everywhere.

Belfast Telegraph readers are able to 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.

Launched at the start of the month readers have been sending in nominations for all categories from across the province.

Among them is Fusion Theatre Group in Lisburn which has given thousands of children “the chance to travel, meet new people and have experiences that may not normally be possible”.

PIPS suicide awareness group in north Belfast has also been nominated for offering “light and hope” to people affected by loved ones taking their own lives.

Mary McAloon from Co Tyrone has been nominated by her three daughters for her constant dedication as a carer to her husband who has suffered from Parkinson’s disease for nearly three decades.

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, next year.

Mike Gilson, editor of the Belfast Telegraph, said: “We say Making The Difference because that is what I believe a newspaper should be doing for its readers, not just bringing them the news, but campaigning on their behalf and giving them information which helps them get on with their lives.”

Service With A Smile

Stuart Anderson (24) from Newtownabbey and David Hardy (29) from south Belfast helped to transfer an elderly patient from the Mater Hospital to spend her final hours at home with her family.

They were praised for their “gentle compassion” in how they treated 90-year-old Mary Galashan from Carrickfergus.

The unit leader of Ormeau Division, Andrew Chambers, said: “The contents have moved us to nominate the crew, Stuart Anderson and David Hardy, for the Making The Difference Recognition Awards — Service with a Smile,” Mr Chambers said.

The letter from George and Anne Galashan said: “Mum had longed to get home to die in her own surroundings and we knew she only had days to live. “The staff of D Ward in the Mater were wonderful but there were no ambulances available so they asked for a St John ambulance.

“When you two arrived we were so pleased as mum was getting distressed thinking she wasn’t getting home as promised.

“I know the Health Service has diminished and it is thanks to people like you who give their time for such a worthy cause.

“You treated our mum with such gentle compassion and I know getting the stretcher into that wee bungalow was a problem, but you dealt with it with such care. Mum passed away four days later, but thanks to you she was in her own home and died peacefully, pain-free and surrounded by the family she loved so dearly.”

Best Volunteer

Enthusiastic and inspirational is how Georgie Johnston is described by the chairman of Save the Children.

The shop leader at the charity’s Botanic shop and Belfast branch treasurer has been praised for her dedication to helping others.

“It is impossible to meet Georgie Johnston without being impressed by her energy, enthusiasm and sense of humour — all qualities which have helped her to motivate and inspire her volunteers in the shop,” Robert Lamrock, chairman of Save the Children, said. “She runs the Belfast door-to-door collections during Flag Week.

“She organises special collections; I can think of several years where Georgie along with her husband, daughter, and elderly aunt, along with many friends, collected at the end of the pantomime in the Opera House. They have also collected at the Waterfront Hall and Odyssey, and on several major special collections, at Forestside, for the Boxing Day tsunami and for more recent disasters.

“Georgie Johnston has a generous personality, charisma and her contagious enthusiasm and personal ethic of helping others make her very special.”

Best Carer

Mary McAloon has been nominated by her three daughters for her constant dedication as a carer to her husband who has suffered with Parkinson’s Disease for nearly three decades.

The 65-year-old from Trillick, Co Tyrone, who is a mother-of-eight and grandmother to seven, has been put forward for the award for her “unfailing commitment” to looking after her 68-year-old husband Packie.

Her daughters Clare, Louise and Siobhan McAloon said: “She has won the admiration of her own family, friends and neighbours for her unfailing commitment to caring for dad in a sensitive, patient and loving manner 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Mum has been an example to us, as she never complains about her own ailments or having to put aside the pursuit of her own interests and hobbies in order to care for dad on a daily basis.”

“In the last two years she has also helped dad through chemotherapy treatment, and is currently helping him to recover from a broken hip.”

The categories in Making The Difference 2010

Best Street: We want to find the street where there is an amazing sense of community pride and is shown through activities such as clean-ups, street parties or activities which involve everyone in the neighbourhood.

Best School: A school that has an ‘outreach’ project which involves pupils going into the community to spruce up gardens, raise money for local causes or has gone ‘green’ within the school.

Best Volunteer: Someone who has worked tirelessly for a charity or in the voluntary sector for many years or has proven to go above and beyond their role.

Best Neighbour: A person considered to be the ‘heart’ of the street. They look after other neighbours, either by running errands, give lifts or are just always there to help and listen.

Best Enterprise: This business takes charity fundraising seriously. They have either done something for the environment or ‘give back’ to the local community through school programmes.

Best Art/Sport/Community Project: We are looking for the artist who runs classes for underprivileged children or the elderly, or the sports coach who teaches football to young people—someone who helps give groups fresh purpose.

Spirit of Youth: This is for a bright spark who has demonstrated great achievements at a young age. Either they have joined an orchestra at 15, or achieved great academic, sporting or artistic heights.

Service with a Smile: This is the ambulance driver, shop owner, home help, or meals on wheels worker who gives their all to their job and the people they help.

999 Hero: Someone who, through an amazing act of bravery, has saved a life. They can be either a member of the public or emergency services personnel.

Best Garden: This ‘oasis’ does not need to be acres of landscaped beauty but it could be the little urban garden that brightens up dull streets, or a small back garden.

Carer in the Community: We want to find an amazing person who has dedicated their time to looking after someone in their home.

Making The Difference Award: The overall honour awarded to the outstanding individual, organisation or project that has made a huge contribution to the community.

How to get involved

Nominations can be made by anyone who knows a person, project, business or a even a street they believe worthy of an award.

The public can enter two ways:

1— Write a nomination in no more than 200 words clearly stating the category and contact details of nominator and nominee and send to Making the Difference Awards, Belfast Telegraph 124-144 Royal Avenue, Belfast, BT1 1EB. Or ...

2— send an email to:

As well as choosing a winner for each one, the judging panel will also select the winner of the overall Belfast Telegraph Making The Difference Award.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph