Great Big Thank You Awards: Full round-up as local heroes honoured - VIDEO and PICTURES

Find out who won and see all the photos, video and reaction from this year's Great Big Thank You Awards.

The eight winners of the Great Big Thank You Awards, with Dicky Dodd
The eight winners of the Great Big Thank You Awards, with Dicky Dodd

It was a night to celebrate the Black Country and Staffordshire's unsung heroes who work tirelessly to make our communities better, go that extra mile to help others or those who have succeeded against all odds.

Finalists, celebrities, dignitaries, MPs and sponsors gathered to discover who Express & Star readers had chosen to receive one of our Great Big Thank You Awards.

More than 150 guests attended the glittering awards ceremony in the WV1 Suite at the Molineux Stadium on Thursday to congratulate the finalists – including famous faces such as Britain's Got Talent finalist Donchez Dacres, cycling legend Hugh Porter and Black Country comic Doreen Tipton.

WATCH: Local heroes honoured at ceremony

Compere for the night was Signal 107's Dicky Dodd, who last year was named as Ambassador of the Year and was ready to hand over his title.

Dicky announced all the winners during the evening, welcoming them onto the stage to accept their well-deserved trophies.

The finalists were congratulated on their nominations by Wolverhampton Grand Theatre's Sleeping Beauty pantomime stars Debbie McGee, Richard Cadell – and of course Sooty.

Meanwhile guests were entertained by Mark Harrington, president of Wolverhampton Circle of Magicians, West Midlands singer and songwriter Tanny Blue and Mr Wiggle and Wine himself Donchez.


The first winner on the night was Nicola Griffiths who was named Teacher of the Year, sponsored by City of Wolverhampton Council and was presented her award by the city council's deputy mayor Councillor Claire Darke.

Teacher of the Year winner Nicola Griffiths with Deputy Mayor Clare Darke.

Nicola Griffiths said she hoped her students at Bristnall Hall Academy, in Oldbury, would be proud of her award win.

She said: "My students will be so pleased, I'm sure they will make some jokes. But they have been really positive and they will be proud of me hopefully.

"The most satisfying part of my job is working with the students and seeing their smiles when they understand something you've taught them."

WATCH: Winners react to receiving awards

Fitness teacher Jean Hughes walked away with the Community Champion award, sponsored by the Express & Star, presented to her by editor Martin Wright and Wolverhampton North East MP Emma Reynolds.

Community Champion winner Jean Hughes with Martin Wright and MP Emma Reynolds.

For more than four decades Jean has helped women across the Black Country keep fit – before calling it a day last summer.

She said: "I am flabbergasted – I didn’t expect it to come to me, there were so many other people I thought they would win. I accept it, but on behalf of my group, because they made my life worthwhile, helping to keep them happy and getting ladies out of their homes, going somewhere to meet somebody, it makes life easy for them.”

Young Star, sponsored by Signal 107, went to eight-year-old Zak Jeavons, which was presented to him by Dicky Dodd and station director Paul Smith.

Young Star Award winner Zak Jeavons with Paul Smith and Dicky Dodd.

Zak saved up his pocket money to buy scarves, gloves, hats, food and dog food for homeless people and their pets using the Good Shepherd Ministry.

He said: "I am really, really happy to win this award. I was feeling a bit nervous beforehand but I am really proud of myself.

"I am going to keep saving even more money to buy them even better stuff. I would like to buy them a house."

Learner award, sponsored by the University of Wolverhampton, went to Alison Jones.

Learner Award winner Alison Jones with Jacqui Oatley and Mary Mahoney

She was presented her award by TV sports present Jacqui Oatley MBE and Doctor Mary Mahoney from the university.

Mother-of-four Alison was inspired to go back into the classroom by her children – resulting in her passing her GCSE maths exam almost 25 years after sitting it for the first time.

She said: "It is a huge honour to be successful in winning this award but like I said well done to the other contestant Neeco because it doesn't matter at what point you decide to do your GCSE's, at school or much later in life.

The Fresh Start award, sponsored by whg, was won by Jade Secker, and presented to her by Gary Fulford, the group chief executive at the association, and star of The Voice Megan Reece.

Fresh Start Award winner Jade Secker

Jade battled severe anxiety for a number of years and is now determined to speak out and help those in the same situation.

She said: "I am so touched, thank you to everyone that has voted for me. It is a great platform to speak out about mental health and reach out to those who really need somebody to talk to."

Volunteer of the Year, sponsored by Star Employment Services, was given to White House Cancer Support volunteer Michael Price, by director Lee Smith, Hugh Porter MBE and Anita Lonsbrough MBE.

Volunteer of the Year winner Michael Price with Lee Smith, Anita Lonsbrough and Hugh Porter.

Michael runs four successful cancer support groups across the Black Country and the West Midlands.

He said: "I never thought this would happen – I thought the other lady would win it, I was convinced.

"I thank all the people who nominated me and voted for me, that's the main thing. I especially want to thank my wife for sticking with me through my troubles."

The Fundraiser of the Year award, sponsored by HomeServe, went to Suzy Evans – presented with her award by brand director John Greaves and Britain's Got Talent finalist Jean Martyn.

Fundraiser of the Year winner Suzy Evans with Dicky Dodd.

Suzy and her son Owen set up the Smile for Joel charity in memory of her eldest son Joel Richards, who died alongside his uncle Adrian Evans, grandfather Patrick Evans and 38 others in the 2015 Tunisia terror attack.

She said: "It is just really lovely as we had so much help from others in the first few months – we just wanted to give something back.

"I want to dedicate this award to my brother, dad and Joel – and everyone who supports the charity. To be shortlisted was an achievement."

The last award of the night – Ambassador of the Year, sponsored by Wolverhampton Grand Theatre, went to Mary Harding, who received her prize from the Grand's Vicky Price and Queen of the Black Country Doreen Tipton.

Ambassador of the Year winner Mary Harding with Vicky Price and Doreen Tipton.

Mary has been behind the scenes of the Carver Wolverhampton Half Marathon since its inception.

She said: "I am just delighted – I am so honoured to even be nominated, let alone all the people who have bothered to vote for me.

"I love what I do, I just get on and do these things, because I enjoy getting the best out of people, I am just thrilled."

'They're all winners'

Emma Reynolds MP and Tim Johnson.
Pat Price and Michael Price.

Emma Reynolds MP paid tribute to the community champions recognised in the awards.

She said: "It is just such a brilliant event and I look forward to it every year. It is fantastic that the Express & Star honour the people who have gone beyond the call of duty whether its fundraising or being a fantastic champion in the community.

"To me, they are all winners. To be nominated they have got to have done something quite special."

Donchez preforming.

Wolverhampton South East MP Pat McFadden said: "When you read what these finalists have done, I am just completely blown away by their incredible efforts.

"I think it shows the warmth and strength of the community support here in the Black Country."

Linda Rist and Chelsea Rist.

Donchez said: "I think it is a really great thing to recognise the area and the things people who live here are doing for their community.

"It is great to celebrate these finalists and see so many inspirational people."

Donchez delighted the audience with his hit Wiggle and Wine – getting the audience up on their feet
Signal 107's Dicky Dodd acted as compere for the Great Big Thank You Awards evening

Dicky Dodd said: "At Signal we don't get to see the listeners and at the Express & Star you often don't get to see the readers, so it is great to see people's faces and what it means.

"You can't put a price on this, it's brilliant."


Anita Lonsbrough and Hugh Porter celebrate the community heroes at the Great Big Thank You Awards
Hayley Evans and Charlotte Jones.

Cycling legend Hugh said: "I think it is a lovely evening devoted to recognise the work these people do as it is all voluntary.

"It is great for the Express & Star to recognise what these people have done for their communities."

Louis Johnson with mother Teresa Johnson.
Emma Thompson, Archie Thompson and Paul Thompson.

Olympic swimming gold medallist Anita said: "It is to show these people they are appreciated for what they do.

"It is nice to celebrate in the city of Wolverhampton – the city gets too many kicks so it is good to have something to shout about."

Debbie Turton, Jayda Rose Turton and Mark Turton.
Ian Sharman and Jean Martyn.

Megan Reece, from The Voice, said: "I have been to all three of these events now and it is just so uplifting to celebrate local people who are doing great things.

"It makes me so proud of our community."

Bob Walters, Polly Walters, Neresh Dhanda and Katie Gray.
Dancing to Donchez.

Doreen Tipton said: "If you want to see a place where folks still put others before themselves, and go out of their way to help strangers, visit the Black Country.

"We have some of the warmest-hearted folk in the world, and the awards was all about saying a Big Thank You to them.”

Jacqui Oatley MBE said: "It is such a fantastic city and the Black Country is somewhere that I champion around the world wherever I am, it's such an important thing and a wonderful opportunity to say thank you to the people who have given so much to their community and don't really get thanked most of the time.

"I am here as this is my home city and I am really proud of it – I'm bursting with pride."

Neeco Chambers and Clare Samuels.
Sue Handford, Jean Hughes and Paul Handford.

Britain's Got Talent star Jean Martyn added: "There are so many people that do so many wonderful things that go unnoticed and I think this event is just so special.

"The lovely thing about the Black Country and the people of this area is that they all pull together, the community spirit is still with us and everybody helps each other out."

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