Pride of Edinburgh award winners

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THEY are our inspirational teachers and carers and those who refuse to let disability prevent them from living full lives.

They are the people who clean rubbish from our parks without being asked, and who brighten the Capital with a thousand simple acts of kindness.

Overall winners Sheila and Freddie Buchanan are presented with their award by Edinburgh Airport's Stuart Young and Grant Stott. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Overall winners Sheila and Freddie Buchanan are presented with their award by Edinburgh Airport's Stuart Young and Grant Stott. Picture: Ian Georgeson

In their own way each and every one of the unsung heroes honoured at Pride of Edinburgh Award has made a difference in their communities.

The shortlist for the glitzy event’s inaugural year featured finalists nominated in 14 categories, including inspirational young adult, community champion and fundraiser or volunteer of the year.

The ceremony in the suitably splendid setting of the newly refurbished Assembly Rooms shone a light on those who have shone a light for us, among them volunteers who risk their lives to help others, athletes who have shown exceptional dedication in the sporting arena, and youngsters who have battled through adversity.

The Capital has had awards ceremonies before, but never on this scale have the compassionate and the brave and the determined been so publicly recognised.

Top carer Doreen Raeburn with Shulah Allan from Edinburgh & Lothians Health Foundation and Grant Stott. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Top carer Doreen Raeburn with Shulah Allan from Edinburgh & Lothians Health Foundation and Grant Stott. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Evening News editor Frank O’Donnell, who sat on the panel of judges, said: “These are people who work for their communities often without the recognition they deserve.

“We will change all that as we shine a spotlight on the unsung heroes of the city, as they have for us.

“We often hear about the big stuff happening in Edinburgh – the trams and the redevelopment of the St James Centre.

“But we should never lose sight of what makes Edinburgh truly amazing: its people.

Amy McBeath clutches her trophy. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Amy McBeath clutches her trophy. Picture: Ian Georgeson

“Whether they have shown kindness to strangers, cleared our parks of litter, collected money for a good cause or raised the bar of sporting achievement, we have every reason to be proud of them.”

He added: “Such was the calibre of the nominees that even making the shortlist is itself an incredible achievement.”

They don’t do it for praise, and many were surprised to be nominated in the first place.

But they were the stars of the show last night as 240 people gathered in the Music Hall to assure them that their hard work and dedication has not gone unnoticed.

Dansation perform. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Dansation perform. Picture: Ian Georgeson

Popular winners included Child of Achievement Amy MacBeath, who has cerebral palsy but took on a series of runs to raise funds for the Sick Kids and Thornton Rose Riding for the Disabled Association.

Kick-boxer Samera Ashraf, who works with vulnerable women teaching self-defence, won in the sporting achievement category.

She said: “I’m shaking. I’m not usually lost for words. This is a real honour.”

Billed as a night to remember, it did not disappoint, with broadcaster and Forth One DJ Grant Stott keeping guests entertained.

Dansation opened the entertainment with a lively performance, and Edinburgh Has Talent winner Saskia Eng wowed the audience with her rendition of Say Something, I’m Giving Up On You, and Michael Jackson’s Blame It on the Boogie.

The Voice star Anna McLuckie, who gave the final performance of the night, said: “I have heard some amazing stories, and they are all worthy winners.”

The culmination of the night the presentation of the Pride of Edinburgh trophy, which was given to the person who stood out from all the rest.

And the challenge for the judging panel could not have been any more difficult.

They faced a choice between a wheelchair-bound war veteran who spends his days collecting for charity, committed foster patents who have dedicated their lives to helping others, and an exceptional carer with many years of volunteering under his belt. But in the end Sheila and Freddie Buchanan, who have been foster parents for almost 30 years, were named the Pride of Edinburgh.

They have fostered up to 70 vulnerable teenagers often from troubled backgrounds, helping them turn their lives around, and have also raised seven children of their own.

The couple, who live on Gilmerton Road, said they had been “overwhelmed” to make the shortlist but nothing prepared them for the shock of winning.

When the pair went up to collect their award, they received a standing ovation from the assembled guests.

Sheila, who was visibly moved, said: “I can’t believe it.”

Freddie, 66, who expected Tom Gilzean to win, said: “It’s all worthwhile but it is a challenge. You have to have a sense of humour, and patience.”

john.connell@edinburghnews.com