Pride of Britain 2021: Honouring heroes from brave children and inspirational pensioners

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In a world where the future appears uncertain than ever, there is always one certainty that we can trust.

This unique, uplifting celebration of latent heroism within our midst will help to renew our faith in humanity.

You would think that Pride of Britain, after 22 years, had run out of heroes to praise them. But last night’s ceremony was yet another peerless example of how our nation is brimming with selflessness, courage and compassion.

These awards had a new feel. After last year’s virtual event there was joy that these heroes could once again be celebrated in the flesh, but sadness at the absence of its founder and heartbeat, Peter Willis, who died earlier this year. His huge absence was partially filled by Ashley Banjo teaming up with Carol Vorderman, an experienced host whose rapport shined from the beginning.

At the Grosvenor House pre-ceremony meal, everyone was focused on the faces of Simon Cowell, Sharon Stone and Rod Stewart. The 1,000-strong crowd was entertained with stories of devotion, heroism, and some of these made the tears flow. However, the only stars were those picking up the gongs.

The remarkable youngsters don’t just give you renewed hope for the future, they make you wince at our own ineptitude.

Harmonie Rose Allen is the Take Child of Courage winner. The 7-year-old girl from Bath, England was given a 10% chance to survive as a toddler after meningitis forced her surgeons into amputating her legs and both arms.

After more then 10 operations the quadruple amputee is an active swimmer and gymnast who has raised more than £76,000 for Meningitis Now through events such as the Bath Half Marathon.

Carol Vorderman asked Carol what inspired her to beat the odds. She answered in a matter of fact: “Never give up and keep on going with your life.”

Spirit of Adventure winner Max Woosey, who raised £640,000 for a North Devon hospice by sleeping for more than 500 nights in a tent in his garden, shamed us with his determination.

Inspirated by the loss of a close friend to cancer, the 12-year-old braved heatwaves, sub-zero frosts and Storm Bella to ensure that others had a peaceful ending to their lives. It was fitting that Bear Grylls, a survival expert, presented him with his award. He praised his selflessness and told him: “You never gave up. What a hero.’

Hughie Higginson, 10, and Freddie Xavi, 11, have raised more than £220,000 after Hughie was diagnosed with leukaemia and Freddie vowed to help him thank his doctors and nurses at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital.

Freddie ran 2km daily for 50 days. Hughie fought his way to join him on the final stretch, so they could cross that line together.

Mo Farah came to their Young Fundraisers Award ceremony and gave them a speech. “I am lucky to have a team behind me, but what you did was amazing.”

No problem facing us right now is more critical than mankind’s abuse of the planet, so how reassuring to hear about teenage sisters Amy and Ella Meek, from Nottingham, who set up a charity to help fight the scourge of plastic pollution.

They’ve personally collected 100,000 pieces of rubbish, one for every sea mammal killed by plastic pollution every year and their charity Kids Against Plastic has inspired more than 1,000 schools and 50 cafes, businesses, festivals and councils to commit to being “plastic clever.”They were given a standing ovation as they accepted the Environmental Champion Award.

Rosemary Cox (82 years old) proved that courage and determination don’t discriminate by age. Rosemary Cox and her husband John Cox campaigned for the establishment of the UK’s first Organ Donor Register after the 1989 death of Peter, a 24-year-old boy from a brain tumor.

It was created in 1994. Since then it has saved or transformed 20,000 lives. Joanna Lumley presented her with her award and said: “You are a completely inspirational woman. Thousands of lives have been transformed because of you.”

Gee Walker, another remarkable mother, dedicated her life after her premature death to a cause.

The nation was shocked by the 2005 unprovoked, racist murder of Anthony Walker, an 18-year old aspiring lawyer. Gee refused to let her life, and Anthony’s memory, be consumed by bitterness, saying she forgave his killers because hate killed her son.

In 2006, she founded the Anthony Walker Foundation to fight racism and promote love. It has helped almost 10,000 people who have been victims of hate crime.

Rudolph Walker, Eastenders star, presented her the Special Recognition Award. “That inner-strength, that something special that you possess is world-beating. It’s fantastic.”And he appealed for the room: “Please let’s stop hating each other.”

Rob Allen was another individual who used tragedy to make it a positive thing by helping their loved ones live a happy and fulfilling life. After Niamh, his third child, was stillborn, Rob Allen, 34, founded Sands United. This is a network of football clubs where grieving men can come together.

Rob and Charlotte were greatly helped by Sands, a stillbirth charity. Rob also realized that there were other men in similar situations. He formed Sands United, a football league, and entered a Northampton league. There are now more than 30 Sands United teams across Britain, each team’s kit is embroidered with the names of the lost babies.

Harry Kane, England captain said that he presented Rob with his Special Recognition award. “It’s important for men to open up. Huge thanks to yourself for doing that.”

These award-winners are distinguished by their courage. Courage that goes beyond what most people believe they are capable of. Stephen Warton, 53 a part-time Cumbrian firefighter who threw away his heavy safety gear to save a 13 year-old boy who was submerged for 25 minutes in freezing water, would not have thought of it.

Casper Krauze was in an induced state of consciousness and made a good recovery. Stephen, the Emergency Services Award winner, thanked him on stage for his kindness. “thank you for so much.”

The Prince’s Trust Young Achiever Award always throws up inspirational heroes and Hassan Alkhawam is no exception. When he was 23 years old, his family fled Syria to escape the conflict. The refugees were then reintroduced to Northern Ireland.

Hassan, a native of Iran, was forced to give up full-time education to work for the family. Hassan was able to complete an English language course through the Trust. He is currently studying software engineering at the university and was a key worker for Tesco during the pandemic. He is also part a programme that aids refugees and migrants in Northern Ireland.

You can earn your luck in this life, so fortune shined down upon Hassan when Sharon Stone, a Hollywood star, presented him with his award. “you are one of the finest human beings I’ve ever met. I am humbled and privileged to give you this award.”

As all of us lucky enough to be witnessing this year’s Pride of Britain in the Grosvenor Hotel were.

As the highest award show, this spectacular celebration of the best human values performed once more.

Complete list of Pride of Britain recipients

Lifetime AchievementRosemary Cox, age 82, Wolverhampton

Successfully campaigned for the establishment of the UK’s first Organ Donor Register. This helped to save thousands of people’s lives.

Special Recognition – Rob Allen, 34, Northampton

Sands United is an inspirational network that brings together men who have lost children and babies.

Special Recognition – Oxford Vaccine Team

TheBritish scientists developed the vaccine that saved our lives. The jab is also the most powerful weapon against Covid in developing countries.

This Morning Emergency Services Award – Stephen Warton, 53,Cumbria

Part-time firefighter, he risked his life to save a teenage boy who was submerged in freezing waters for over 20 minutes.

Good Morning Britain Young Fundraiser – Hughie Higginson, 10, and Freddie Xavi, 11,Manchester

Best pals have raised more than £200,000 after Hughie was diagnosed with Leukaemia and Freddie vowed to help him thank his doctors and nurses.

Child of Courage – Harmonie-Rose Allen, 7,Bath

A quadruple amputee was given a 10% chance to survive as a toddler. Her courage and unbreakable spirit have inspired the nation.

Spirit of Adventure – Max Woosey, 12,North Devon

“Tent Boy” Max has spent more than 500 nights sleeping under canvas, raising £640,000 for his local hospice.

Special Recognition – Gee Walker, 67,Liverpool

Forgave her son’s killers and devoted her life to promoting racial harmony in his memory, building a legacy of love to overcome hate.

Environmental Champion – Amy and Ella Meek, 18 and 16,From Nottingham

Campaigning sisters set up a kid’s charity to help fight the global scourge of plastic pollution.

Prince’s Trust Young Achiever – Hassan Alkhawam, 23,Northern Ireland

Hassan and the rest of his family fled Syria to escape war-ravaged Syria. They were granted refugee status and resettled in Northern Ireland in 2017. Hassan’s life has changed dramatically since he arrived in the country.