Henley Community Champions Shine at Annual Awards Night

Last Friday evening marked the return of the annual Henley Herald Community Champion Awards, an evening dedicated to honouring exceptional local individuals for their outstanding contributions to the community.

Held at Henley Rugby Club and hosted by our Editor, Michaela Clarke, the event was graciously sponsored by local businesses, with Manning UK Insurance Brokers leading as the primary sponsor.

A total of 29 nominations were received across six categories, and the winners were determined through a public vote that garnered over 1400 responses. The competition was notably close, with three categories changing winners multiple times, making this year’s voting one of the most tightly contested in the award’s six-year history.

Michaela, addressing the audience before the award presentations, said, “I wanted to say that all of our nominees should be very proud to be nominated; however I’m sad to say that there can only be one winner. I’m glad it wasn’t me who had to decide. This is the 6th year of the awards and we’ve now raised over £7,000 for local charities.”

Tim Dodd-Wilson, along with his charismatic companion Lily the big duck, secured the title of Charity Champion for his substantial fundraising efforts for Macmillan Cancer Support. Tim said, “I’m in a state of shock to be honest. I really didn’t expect that; I didn’t even expect to be a runner up! What I will say is that I couldn’t collect a penny without my help which is all at that table down there.” He continued, “Hopefully we’ll carry on and continue and keep putting smiles on people’s faces – that’s all I want to do. Thanks.”

Nurse Simone Wylie, from The Bell Surgery, was crowned Community Champion, having been nominated by one of her patients. Upon accepting her award, Simone expressed, “I haven’t prepared a speech because I honestly think I would win. I was just so happy to be nominated by my lovely patient over there. For me, nursing is my life and I love it. Not the pain, but I love the job and what I do. Seeing people get better, healing people, is what it’s about really. I’m so happy to accept this on behalf of the Bell Surgery as well –  it’s a great team, and all the nurses are great. I’m in shock actually, so thank you.”

Jo Saunders took the top spot in the Heart of Gold Neighbour category; Elin Barr was named the Young Sporting Superstar; and Beth Evans from Trinity School secured the Top Teacher accolade after a very closely fought competition.

The category of Customer Service Champion, on the other hand, had one very clear winner: Jenny Dobson from Henley Post Office. Though she couldn’t make the party on Friday, we surprised her with her award on Friday afternoon. Jenny was clearly very touched by the award, stating, “Thank you very, very much for this award. I’m overwhelmed by it all, but if I didn’t have the two brothers that took over this post office at the beginning of last year, this probably wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be working here. So it’s thanks to them as well as to everybody else who voted for me – thank you very much, thank you.”

All winners received a specially crafted silver pin badge, designed in the shape of the Herald logo by Studio 35 jewellers, along with certificates. Each award category was generously sponsored by local businesses, including Henley Self Storage, Meadows Farm Studios, Brakspear, Southern Plant, and IBS Office Solutions. The evening featured a delicious three-course meal for all guests, provided by Menza Cafe, and there was entertainment from DJ Gary Boys.

The awards ceremony was held in support of Henley Music School, a charity offering all forms of music education to people of all ages in the local area. Laura Reineke, founder of the school, said, “Please give generously. Music is seen as something that isn’t terribly important when there are worse things going on, which obviously there are, but we believe that every child should have an all-round education and Music and the Arts are part of that.”

Closing the formal proceedings, Michaela said, “Congratulations to the winners, thanks to the Menza, all the sponsors particularly Manning UK for sponsoring the party and most of all to all the wonderful people in the Henley community who have done the great things they have been nominated for, and also to everyone who made the nominations and voted.”

The nominations will open for this year’s awards again in September.

The full results were:

Charity Champion%
Tim Dodd-Wilson24.6
Lucy Bowley24.0
Elin Barr21.8
Gaynor Peel18.9
Catherine Carr10.8
Community Champion%
Simone Wylie20.3
Lucy Herbert19.2
Andrew Gosby16.9
Lou Porter9.7
Derek Gilbert9.2
Tom Scott9.2
Alison Engleby and Louise Sadler7.9
Sarah Miller7.6
Heart of Gold Neighbour%
Jo Saunders32.7
Rita Szucs27.6
Helen “Bucket” Prescot18.2
Tony Hoskins12.1
Sue Rippon9.4
Customer Service Champion%
Jenny Dobson – Post Office43.5
Zoe Ferriera – Henley Larder14.9
Jonathan Jackson – Oxfam Books11.0
Omid – Cartridge Zone8.9
Kay Hayes – Ice Cream Hut8.4
Vicky Lehaj – Top to Toe7.1
Tracey Ball – Wild & Rust6.1
Top Teacher%
Beth Evans – Trinity School23.1
Steph Maxwell – Divas and Dudes Dance Academy21.7
Lucy Robinson – Badgemore School19.1
Caroline Sweetman – Springbox12.6
Tim Coulson – Valley Road School10.7
Olivia Lamb – Rupert House5.6
Isabelle Bower – Rupert House3.6
Susie Newman – Rupert House3.6
Young Sporting Superstar%
Elin Barr – Athlete35.3
Abi Botterill – Netball25.5
Nonnie Luke – Rowing23.6
Toby Williams – Football15.6

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