FUNDRAISING superstar Dean Reilly has been named this year’s Evening News Local Hero.
He was joined on stage at a glittering awards ceremony last night by winners from 12 other categories, who were all rewarded for going above and beyond their call of duty in the community.
Around 300 people gathered at the Assembly Rooms, in George Street, to celebrate our unsung heroes who were nominated by members of the public earlier this year.
The Evening News received hundreds of entries, but last month the judges whittled it down to just three finalists for each of the 13 categories.
Dean, from Newcraighall, scooped the overall accolade for his outstanding fundraising
efforts and bravery.
After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) four years ago, the 35-year-old promised himself he would never let his condition get in the way of his life – and has since participated in a number of gruelling challenges, including the London Marathon.
Dean, who works part-time in the Edinburgh Nike store and raises three children alone, has raised thousands of pounds for the MS Society Scotland and has vowed to keep competing.
After accepting his award from Sir Tom Farmer, he said: “There are thousands of people out there that have probably got it harder than me, but I have three boys and I want to be a role model for them.
“If they ever come across something difficult in life, I want them to know that they don’t just have to sit back and take it, they can deal with anything, no matter what.
“When I got the letter in the post to tell me I had MS, I thought to myself ‘it’s either fight or flight’.
“I wasn’t going to accept I had MS, I’m not going to let it beat me. I might be tired and I might be sore, but I won’t give up with my fundraising.
“I’m so pleased to have achieved this award, for my boys and for my parents, who inspire me all the time.”
Later this year, he will face his toughest test yet, the Arch de Arc endurance challenge, when he will attempt to run 90 miles from the Marble Arch in London to the Dover coast, row 20 miles to Calais, and then undertake a 180-mile cycle to the Arc De Triomphe in Paris – all in just a few days.
Among the other winners last night was Terri Smith, the Young Inspirational Adult of the Year and Julie Wright, winner of Carer of the Year.
Terri, who dedicates hours of her time to volunteering in the community despite receiving treatment for a brain tumour, burst into tears and shouted: “This is for all the young people I’ve ever helped.”
She added: “I’m gobsmacked. This is for my mum, Louise Scoular, who supports me in everything I do. This has been the hardest year of my life, but I’m so grateful to be here.”
Lynsey Stevenson, from Lasswade Primary School, was awarded Teacher of the Year and Saltersgate School in Dalkeith was named School of the Year, after fighting off stiff competition from West Calder High School and Brunstane Primary.
The event was hosted by Forth One presenter Grant Stott – who opened the ceremony dressed in a Superman-themed suit – and guests were treated to entertainment from the likes of community choir Soul Nation and Bay City Rollers legend Alan Longmuir.
Heather Duff, 29, who recently completed the London Marathon, was unable to make last night’s awards ceremony but her parents were overwhelmed to collect the Bravery accolade on her behalf. Heather, who works for Edinburgh Leisure, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cervical cancer in 2014 and was told her chances of survival were minimal.
But since “bucking the trend”, Heather has done all she can to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
Grace Warnock, ten, from Prestonpans, who suffers from Crohn’s disease, was awarded the Child of Achievement accolade. She came up with new signs for toilet doors which help symbolise the challenges people with hidden diseases face on a daily basis. She said: “Going out on that stage was so scary but exciting. I’m so happy.”
LOCAL HERO AWARDS IN FULL
Edinburgh Street Assist – a group of volunteers who give up hours of their time every Friday and Saturday night to help ease the pressure on the emergency services.
Sponsored by Barchester Health Care
Heather Duff – was diagnosed with a severe form of cervical cancer in 2014 and since being in remission has participated in several fundraising activities for charity.
Sponsored by MacDonald Hotels and Resorts
Juno Perinatal Mental Health Support – volunteers who help new mothers through difficult times.
Sponsored by Central Taxis
Teacher of the Year
Lynsey Stevenson – has gone above and beyond her call of duty to help pupils reach their goals.
Sponsored by Smarter Scotland
Peter Robinson – after losing his son, Peter has done all in his power to raise awareness of the dangers of concussion in sport.
Carer of the Year
Julie Wright – goes above and beyond her call of duty to get to know her clients and to assist them in anyway possible.
Fundraiser/Volunteer of the Year
Andy and Jennifer Gill – they created the charity LoveOliver after their son passed away at just 24 weeks due to an aggressive form of cancer. They have since raised more than £315,000 for research into childhood cancer.
Sponsored by Scottish National Blood Transfusion Service
Neighbour of the Year
Elizabeth McLeod – after her neighbour was diagnosed with dementia, Elizabeth helped out every day by doing her shopping and cleaning until a care package was put in place.
Sponsored by McCarthy & Stone
Inspirational Young Adult
Terri Smith – a member of the Scottish Youth Parliament who is receiving treatment for a brain tumour but dedicates hours of her time to volunteering in the community.
Sponsored by the Omni Centre
Contribution to Local Sport
Ian Brownlee – the founder of the City of Edinburgh Volleyball Club and has coached his players to reach international levels.
School of the Year
Saltersgate, Dalkeith – ensuring children develop to the best of their abilities by teachers going above and beyond their call of duty.
Child of Achievement
Grace Warnock – suffers from Crohn’s disease and created a new project to help those with hidden illnesses.
Sponsored by Edinburgh Carpet Warehouse
The Local Hero Award
Dean Reilly – an MS sufferer who insists on carrying out challenging tasks to raise thousands of pounds for charity.
Sponsored by Farmer Autocare