Henley Superstars Honoured at Henley Herald Community Champion Awards

Henley’s best and brightest were celebrated last Friday at the second ever Henley Herald Community Champion Awards. 115 guests gathered at the Rugby Club for the party, which recognised the local heroes and standout stars voted for by the Henley community. An opportunity to honour Henley’s most treasured characters, the Awards ceremony was fiesta of good food, fantastic live music, and infectious community spirit. The event was held in aid of Riverside Counselling Service, the charity providing affordable counselling and psychotherapy to adults and young people in the local area.

The Henley Herald Community Champion Awards, started by our Editor, Michaela Clarke in 2018, are decided by both public nominations and a public vote, which took place in November of last year. This second year for the Awards saw an increase in nominations and votes, with 38 nominations for the 6 different categories and over 1,400 votes received. One individual, jeweller David Rodger Sharp, was nominated in three different categories, whilst other nominees were submitted by multiple people for their achievements. Michaela, who compered the event alongside Mike Read, stated before the awards presentations, “Tonight we will be honouring individuals who are making a difference in our community – helping to make Henley special. Everyone who has been nominated should feel very proud.”

Each of the six awards was sponsored by a local business – Phyllis Court Club, Philip Booth Esq, Meadows Farm Studios, Brakspear, Southern Plant and IBS Office Solutions – and representatives from each were responsible for opening the golden envelope in the big reveal. Winners were presented with a specially commissioned silver pin badge in the shape of Herald logo made by Studio 35 jewellers and a certificate.

The first award to be announced was the ‘Charity Champion’, which was a fitting win for Hilary Arthur of Riverside Counselling Services, the charity chosen to benefit from the Awards ceremony fundraising. Hilary joined Riverside as Director and Clincal Lead in 2010, when the service was dwindling with only a handful of counsellors and clients. Under her lead, the service has grown to 52 counsellors seeing 125 clients per week, and has forged strong links with local GP practices and voluntary agencies. Riverside Counselling Service continues to provide affordable counselling to those that need it the most, with a dedicated service, ‘The Space’, for young people aged 12 and upwards.

Next to receive their award was Brian Dix, who won ‘Heart Of Gold Neighbour’. Every morning, rain or shine, Brian buys and delivers to newspapers several elderly residents on the Gainsborough estate, and is a shining example of a compassionate neighbour. He said that he was surprised even to be nominated, and that to win was a huge honour.

The most competitive category for nominations was ‘Customer Service Champion’, an accolade awarded in memory of the former Old Bell landlord and customer service hero, Rob Myles-Hooton, who tragically lost his life in 2017. Rob’s widow, Pam Myles-Hooton, was invited to present the winner with their prize, and in a touching turn of events, the victory went to everyone’s favourite Sainsbury’s employee, Woan Ru Lin, who had been nominated for the title by Pam herself. Lin, who is one of Henley’s most recognisable faces and rarely seen without a smile, made a moving speech on receipt of her award. She said, “I love Sainsbury’s brand called Taste the Difference. Sometimes, I think if we think differently, we’ll make a difference. My idea of a good customer service is that when many people were busy or feeling upset in the hard times, if I could be busy cheering them up, that’s when I could make a difference through customer service. So I always follow my heart to do customer service. Thank you for the kind nomination, the voting and the precious award. I will treasure it always. I am a British citizen, but I came from far away in Taiwan. Your friendships mean so much to me. Long live our friendship.”

The ‘Young Sporting Superstar’ category was awarded to gymnast Olivia Belcher, who started gymnastics aged just two and a half. Having won a number of medals in recent years, Olivia is now a junior coach at Springbox gymnastics club, where she inspires younger athletes to compete and challenge themselves. Olivia continues to push herself to master new skills, and has recently started rowing at Henley, where no doubt she will continue to succeed. Olivia’s awards was presented by Julie Priestley in memory of her husband, Simon, the Henley Hawks rugby player who passed away in 2018.

Henley’s ‘Top Teacher’, Luke Harding from Gillotts School, was unable to attend the awards party, so was presented with his certificate and badge beforehand and a video of his acceptance speech was played on the night. PE Teacher and Head of House Mr Harding goes above and beyond for his pupils, whether that means staying late for support meetings, letting them have a rant in his office or cheering them up with chocolate!

The final publicly chosen award was for ‘Community Champion’, which had only 12 votes between first and second place. In this closely fought category, it was Keith Whiting who came away victorious for his contribution to the community at Christmas. On Christmas Day, Keith cooks a festive meal at the Christ Church Centre for those who otherwise wouldn’t have one. “What you do for people is really important,” he said as he accepted his award. “You have to give a little bit back to society. It’s very, very important. The thing is, for me, it doesn’t matter how knackered I am, serving someone else who is going to be on their own on Christmas Day is very, very important.”

Three special hero awards, sponsored by The Head Partnership, were also created this year for the Henley women who saved the life of José Goumal after he suffered a cardiac arrest on Bell Street last April. Rachael Dobson, Petra Hughes and Charlie Turner (together with Darren Richardson from Luton) helped to resuscitate José, performing mouth to mouth CPR and using the Rupert House School defibrillator on him seven times before his heartbeat steadied. Rachael Dobson and Charlie Turner, whom José refers to as his ‘Saving Angels’, were in attendance on Friday evening and presented with their special awards by José himself. Charlie, a nurse, stated, “It’s a very proud moment. All of us say we didn’t do much, everyone worked as a team. What’s really lovely is that he’s a really nice man and we’ve been very lucky that we’ve become friends and met on several occasions. He’s a really nice man and we’re proud to have done it.”

It wasn’t just the award winners who walked away with prizes on Friday night, for what party would be complete without a raffle. Up for grabs were 2 General Admission tickets for Henley Festival 2019, 2 tickets to a Henley Hawks game with lunch, afternoon tea for 4 at Phyllis Court, a Space NK Tutorial, a £25 voucher from Laurence Menswear and a £25 voucher from Brakspear. There was also a round of Heads or Tails, although a rugby-themed twist made it Line Out or Scrum! For donations to charity, guests could be in with a chance of winning a bottle of bubbly for their table.

Beyond the main award presentations, the evening was packed full of entertainment to keep guests laughing. Though the three course Italian-themed feast was cooked by Menza, the party-goers were in for a surprise when it was up to them to serve the main course! A chef’s hat and apron on each table was worn by the lucky chosen waiter, garnering many a chuckle from their table. Ending the night with a bang was live music from local band, Lucky To Be Alive. As the group played classic hits such as Stevie Wonder’s ‘Superstition’ and Bill Withers’ ‘Lovely Day’, the guests flooded to the dance floor and boogied into the early hours.

This unforgettable celebration of Henley’s finest was made possible by the party’s main sponsors Simmons & Songs and ManningUK, as well as the award sponsors, the Menza team, Jan and Anthea from the Fairmile Vineyard (who donated fizz for the occasion), and the many wonderful people who both nominated and voted. The next Henley Herald Community Champion Awards will begin in September when nominations open once again, and we look forward to the nominations of the many more inspiring individuals from the Henley community.

The full results of the public vote was as follows:

Charity Champion
Hilary Arthur 21%
David Rodger Sharp 18%
Norman & Sally Daniells 17%
Richard Rodway 14%
Annie Arscott 14%
David Haddock 9%
Tom Potter 5%

Community Champion
Keith Whiting 21%
Jo Dickson 20%
Nick Hunt 19%
Norman Topsom 16%
David Rodger Sharp 13%
Neil Gunnell 11%

Heart of Gold Neighbour
Brian Dix 51%
Norman & Sally Daniells 28%
Helen Gaynor 21%

Customer Service Champion
Lin – Sainsburys 35%
Janice Stow – Frost Borneo 14%
David Rodger Sharp 7%
Peter Hill – Courtneys 6%
Charlotte Sutton – Time for Tea 6%
Riaan Badenhorst 6%
Vicky Lehaj – Top To Toe  5%
Ant Reineke – Studio 5%
Jason Kempston – Sole Man  5%
Liz Felix – Liz Felix Millinery  4%
Laurence Morris – Laurence Menswear  3%
Cath Frisby – Whistles  3%

Young Sporting Superstar
Olivia Belcher – Gymnastics 32%
Ed Roy – Rowing  25%
Francesca Clarke – Cricket  22%
Amelia Cooke & James Burgess – Dragon Boating  21%

Top Teacher
Luke Harding – Gillotts School 26%
Alison Wilkins – Henley Music School  22%
Sharon Greenwood – Badgemore  15%
Rachel Gavin – Sacred Heart 15%
Cath Davidson – Gillotts 8 14%
Caroline Lock – Valley Road School  8%