With each passing year the spirit and strength of the community in Ulverston seems to grow ever stronger.

There are few better examples of what makes the town so exceptional than the Heart of Ulverston Awards.

Last year the Heart of Ulverston Awards highlighted the depth of courage in our community, the peaks of achievement scaled by locals and the boundless enthusiasm shared by each and every person living in Ulverston to make the town the best it can be.

Dozens of people and groups were singled out and nominated for contributions made to the town over the course of the year, and on one spectacular evening they were celebrated as one.

Once again we are calling on you to look around for your community heroes and help us honour the work they do. On November 2 the Coro will once again play host to a celebration of everything which makes the town so special.

On a chilly October night the attention of the entire town turned to the Coronation Hall as guests were beckoned inside to the thunderous drumming of local musicians Boom Dang.

The ceremony sought to praise the efforts of locals for their work in the town across a wide range of endeavours.

Last year's awards categories were:

  • Teacher of the Year
  • Community Group Project of the Year
  • Sports Volunteer of the Year
  • Young Sports Performance of the Year
  • The Helping Hand Award
  • Employee of the Year
  • Environmental Volunteer of the Year
  • The Courage Award
  • Citizen of the Year
  • Young Citizen of the Year
  • Lifetime Achievement Award

Many of the people who strode out onto the stage of the Coronation Hall were well known in the town.

The winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award, Maurice Atkinson, has devoted countless hours of his time over the past 50 years to the people and institutions of Ulverston.

From helping at productions held at The Coro in the 1960s, to helping the staff at the local Royal British Legion to simply helping someone in need on the streets, Mr. Atkinson is the embodiment of what the awards stand for.

Representing the next generation of Ulverstonians were three exceptional youngsters who proved age has no bearing on a person's courage.

Megan Cooper, Ben Plinston and Bradley Sproat were all joint winners of the Young Courage Award. Each winner had triumphed over adversities no one so young should ever have to experience. Whether it is the loss of a loved one, or living day to day with disability. However, through their positivity, determination and of course, courage, the future of the town is in safe hands.

Courage plays such an important part in what makes Ulverston so special. Courage to fight for the town, courage to fight for each other, courage to fight for our loved ones.

Sandra Nevinson took to the stage to a standing ovation when she collected the 2017 Courage Award. Following a horrific car accident which almost claimed her life, she fought to survive, determined to live on for her child. After being told by doctors her injuries were so severe she may never be able to have children again, she fought back.

Defying all odds Miss Nevinson recovered and gave birth to a beautiful, healthy girl, named Alexa Grace.

It was not just the individuals who were singled out for praise during the glamorous awards ceremony.

There are countless groups, organisations, and charities which work tirelessly to improve the town.

One of those celebrated last year was Ulverston in Bloom.

From February and March well into the winter the group's members can be seen in their recognisable hi-vis jackets tending the gardens and green spaces of Ulverston. Come rain or shine the volunteers will plant, weed, cultivate and prune for the love of making the town an attractive place to live.

Their hard work in 2017 was rewarded not just by Heart of Ulverston, but by Cumbria in Bloom.

Following an extended period away from the county-wide competition the group returned to it with a bang, taking home several awards for the town. Their red-letter year was topped off as the group brought home the Environmental Volunteer of the Year.

In 2018 the group are gearing up to take on its toughest challenge to date. This summer judges from Britain in Bloom will be travelling to the town as it goes head to head against communities in Morpeth, Tewkesbury and the City of London.

In a world where the importance of mental health is increasingly in the public eye the work of Ulverston MIND was lauded by the Heart of Ulverston judging panel.

Over the past year the group has redoubled its efforts to be an accessible safe haven for those who may be struggling with their mental health.

With one in four people nationwide believed to have problems with their mental health, the work of MIND is as important as ever in supporting the people of south Cumbria.

The night of celebration was rounded off with yet more awards going to Chris Regan for her work with Ulverston Hockey Team, Bev Frankland whose decades of work at Cumbria Crystal saw her awarded Employee of the Year, and Steven Jackson, teacher of the year who retired on a high note after four decades in the profession.

An award for which so many could be nominated but can only go to one person is the Life Time Achievement Award. For more than 30 years Loretta Blackburn worked her way through the ranks of the Furness branch of the NSPCC charity.

Receiving the award Mrs Blackburn dedicated it to her friends, colleagues and the community which has given so willingly to help children in desperate need.

The Mail is once again proud to launch the Heart of Ulverston Awards. By doing so it is our wish to shine a light on the unsung heroes of the town, and to celebrate the individual and collective achievements which make it such a special place to live.

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