Express & Star

Region's heroes recognised for selfless service and bravery with awards

It was a night to acknowledge community heroes from across the region at a special award ceremony.

The award winners come together to celebrate their achievements

Four members of the Black Country community were honoured at the BBC Radio WM Make a Difference awards, including a youngster battling cancer, a much-loved fundraiser, a volunteering champion and a leading migrant help organisation.

The 2023 winners in the West Midlands were presented with their accolades at the Make a Difference awards ceremony at the Birmingham Hippodrome, hosted by BBC Radio WM’s breakfast presenter Rakeem Omar and Lunchtime presenter Kath Stanczyszyn on Monday.

The aim of the awards is to shine a light on the everyday, unsung heroes who go that extra mile for others in their own community, with a shortlist drawn up and a winner chosen by a special panel of judges from their local region.

The nominees were considered by panels of judges from or with links to the area including paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds, celebrity chef Glynn Purnell and BBC Radio 2 and the One Show’s Richie Anderson.

There were eight awards categories, with three people from the Black Country and a Sandwell migrant charity winning half the awards.

The team from Brushstrokes celebrate their Community Group award win

Brushstrokes from Smethwick were awarded the Community Group award for its work tirelessly providing a place of welcome for all in need, supporting people in and around Sandwell at vulnerable times in their lives.

One half of the famed Tipton twins, Lilian Cox, was awarded the Fundraiser award, awarded to an individual or group of people who have gone the extra mile to raise funds for a charity or good cause.

Lilian has just turned 99-years-old and since her twin Doris's death from Covid-19, has raised £10,000 for charity the Beacon centre for the Blind in Dudley in her sisters memory.

Tipton Twin Lilian Cox was honoured with the Fundraiser award

The Great Neighbour award, awarded to an individual or group of people who help to make the neighbourhood or local community a better place to live or work, either on a regular basis or through a single act of kindness.

It was awarded to 80-year-old Madeleine Holland from Walsall, who still continues to enjoy volunteering and has been doing so for more than 30 years plus, collecting food and delivering to foodbanks and neighbours.

She also helped youngsters from deprived communities with their studies and helped a number pass their 11+.

Madeleine Holland won the Good Neighbour award

Finally, the Bravery award, which is awarded to an individual or group of people who has shown outstanding courage, defiance and duty in the face of perceived danger, fear or difficulty, was presented to seven-year-old River Rhodes from Wolverhampton.

River has been having treatment for a tumour called Rhabdomyosarcoma, including 27 weeks of chemotherapy and intense radiotherapy every day for six weeks.

The judges said that River had shown immense strength, courage and kindness and had helped many other young children throughout their cancer treatment, while also becoming a star on social media and making friends with some very high profile footballers.

River Rhodes was acknowledged for his brave cancer fight with the Bravery award

Pat Hart, BBC Radio WM’s Executive Editor said: “Events like this really do highlight how amazing our area is.

"BBC Radio WM is proud to be giving the spotlight to the very people that make the West Midlands such a great place to live.

"These awards were all about our communities and how we support each other in times of need, BBC Radio WM is proud and humbled to be able to have highlighted just some of them.”

Chris Burns, Controller Local Audio Commissioning said: “The Make a Difference Awards are always an amazing experience, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the individuals who have gone above and beyond to help their communities.

"We always really enjoy hearing the nominees and winners’ stories and sharing them with our listeners.

"A huge thank you to everyone who took the time to nominate someone and a huge congratulations to our winners.”

To find out more about the awards, go to

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