PICTURES: Herald and Gazette Community Stars 2016

Tales of commitment, courage and caring were told as winners of the Herald and Gazette Community Stars were revealed at a special ceremony at Worthing College on Thursday.

Best youth group was The Wonder Girls and Boys, a pom-pom troupe that has members from Littlehampton to Bognor Regis.

You Community Stars for 2016. Pictures: Jon Rigby

You Community Stars for 2016. Pictures: Jon Rigby

Founder Debbie Marsh said: “We started in my back garden with just ten of them.

“We have just grown and grown and they have raised thousands of pounds for charity. They work really hard every year and I am really, really proud of them.”

Inspirational stars Connor and Bradley Baker, from Littlehampton, are brothers who have raised money for St Barnabas House hospice, which cared for their mum.

Dad Chris Baker said: “The boys have turned a very tragic circumstance into a positive challenge helping others less fortunate than themselves and having fun along the way.”

The boys, who are pupils at St Catherine’s Catholic Primary School, told presenter Benjamin Clabon they had done a sponsored swim and the whole audience gasped when they revealed they completed 900 lengths.

Connor said: “Every length we did earned 20p and it was really hard.”

Their mum, Jeanette Baker, is now being cared for at Queen Alexandra Hospital Home in Worthing.

Sports star Morgan Woods, 14, from Worthing, races for Weir Archer Academy Club. Morgan, who has Dejerine Sottas Disease, has done more than 40 personal bests this year at wheelchair racing events around the UK.

He said: “I love it so much because I get to see the world while I do wheelchair racing. It is really fun.”

Best fundraiser Darren Pollard, from Worthing, raised more than £11,500 for Chestnut Tree House.

He had helped organise the annual William’s Walk from Brighton to Worthing piers for two years, raising money for William Pedersen and other youngsters fighting life-threatening illnesses. So, when he was diagnosed with cancer this year, William’s family said they wanted the 2016 walk to raise money for Darren, instead.

“I said to do it for someone else,” he said.

“My friends and family have been fantastic. The support was amazing. It means a lot. I am going to give this award to William Pedersen.”

Best volunteer Adam Domone was nominated for his work at Auntie Val’s Kitchens, a community interest company in Storrington.

Val Challis, known as Aunty Val, collected the award on his behalf. She said he had now moved on but the award would mean a lot to him.

Charity of the year was the Scope charity shop in Chapel Road, Worthing.

Manager Shireen Avis echoed the words of Mark Jeffery, the volunteer who nominated the shop, saying: “We set no limits on potential and want disabled people to be able to develop new skills through their lives.”

Shireen added: “We take people in at the deep end and see how they blossom.

“Mark has autism and I aske him what he would like to do.”

Mark said from the moment he started, it had been an absolutely fantastic journey.

Super senior Freda Hughes has been the woman behind Littlehampton Carnival, a popular procession and community day, for more than 40 years but retired after this year’s event. She was unable to attend the ceremony.

Outstanding bravery winner Julie Pallant had a brain haemorrhage 25 years ago, which left her partially sighted. She was nominated by Marcia Mitchell, who described her as a ‘true gem’.

Julie said things had been difficult for her since her husband died but she had great friends and family, adding: “They keep me going.”

Star of the community Sonia Anderton, from Lancing, was delighted to finally win having been nominated three times previously.

She said she had been involved with youth football in the past, had spent 15 years with Home-Start and was currently volunteering at St Barnabas House hospice.

Health hero Nikki Rowling works at Brockenhurst care home in Littlehampton with end-of-life service users and those with dementia.

She explained why she does it: “It is a hard job to have but it is just helping somebody, being there for somebody when no-one else is.”

Carer in the community winner was Littlehampton RNLI. Lifeboat operations manager Nick White said: “The lifeboat station only works because of the generosity of the people because it is a charity.”

Animal heroes winner was Wadars animal rescue, a charity which rescues birds and wildlife and rehomes companion animals.

Animal rescue officer Ash Peters said they had recently been called out to an eagle owl, an escaped pet.

The Herald Award for Special Achievement went to Dana Gardiner, a lollipop lady and dinner lady at Broadwater CE Primary School.

She said: “They make my day every day. They are brilliant kids. I do enjoy my job. It is a very caring school and they make my life fun.”

Outstanding bravery winner Julie Pallant was nominated by Marcia Mitchell, who described her as a ‘true gem’.

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