THE Pride of Stratford Awards will once again be celebrating the people who make a difference.
The Touch FM awards take place at the Crowne Plaza in Stratford on February 3.
The Observer shines a spotlight on some of this year’s nominees, and this week we highlight those in the running for the Pride of Stratford award itself.
It recognises the work of an individual or organisation whose contribution to the area improves life for residents and visitors.
JEN and DAN MCDONALD and NIC ALLEN have between them raised some £110,000 towards the £1million Stratford Cancer and Eye Hospital Appeal.
The trio held a masquerade ball in 2015 and last year hosted A Night at the Big Top which sold out in just 24 hours.
The events were organised in their spare time – Jen and Dan run Everett Mead Insurance Brokers and Nic is a managing director of Stratford Caravans – and were supported by local business sponsorship.
Jen told The Observer: “The events were the brainchild of Dan who wanted to something for charity – the Stratford Hopsital Appeal is something local which will benefit us and also the wider community.
“We didn’t expect to raise so much! And we certainly didn’t set out for any recognition, we don’t know who has nominated us.
“Organising the events was stressful but also really fun.”
Husband Dan added how thankful he was to the people who volunteered their time to help with the Night at the Big Top.
Nic, who won the Pride of Stratford Award last year, said: “It’s an honour to be nominated for the award twice – although a bit embarrassing!
“My dad John passed away five years ago and my sister Emma in April – she came to the masquerade event and told us to organise another one because she had had so much fun.
“We’re lucky enough that the appeal have agreed to name wards after my dad and sister.”
SARAH SUMMERS played a pivotal role in organising the hugely successful Shakespeare 400 celebrations and the welcoming over 400 delegates from Stratford’s of the World who visited the town to mark the landmark anniversary of Shakespeare’s death.
The visitors from America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand all had flags in the procession along Bridge Street and were invited to all the civic ceremonies.
Sarah also liaised with and brought over the New Orleans Jazz Band for the birthday parade, which also saw over 10,000 Shakespeare masks were distributed at the celebrations.
Sarah worls as clerk to Stratford Town Council and says the award nomination is really for everyone who is involved in making the celebrations a success.
She told The Observer: “Last year was the big anniversary surrounding Shakespeare so it is very humbling to be nominated.
“But it wasn’t just me who made the celebrations a success – the council let me put it on for them, I give them ideas and they say ‘run with it’. I’m very honoured they have the confidence in me.
“There is a fantastic team behind me who make sure the celebrations happen and we do it all on a shoestring budget.
“This is a community event with schools, organisations, clubs and businesses getting involved.
“I had the idea to throw rosemary during a funeral procession so put out an appeal for donations of rosemary sprigs – there were bags and bags of the stuff outside the Town Hall.
“A group of us spent hours cutting and bagging it all up to distribute. People don’t realise what goes on behind the scenes to make the event happen.”
Heating and plumbing engineer ROGER EDMUNDS has been a dedicated volunteer with Stratford Sea Cadets for over 20 years.
Roger joined the cadets as a civilian instructor aged 18 and was immediately enthused by the opportunities available. He successfully progressed through the ranks by attending training courses specified by the corps as well as attending many certified courses in disciplines including rowing, seamanship, sailing and kayaking.
As Officer in Charge of Stratford Sea Cadets – a post he has held for just over five years – the 39 year-old is responsible for making sure the unit is performing to sea cadet regulations.
The husband and father has also become a volunteer instructor for the Children’s Kayaking Charitable Trust where he helps youngsters aged eight to 18 learn kayaking, CPR and river awareness.
Throughout the spring and summer, Roger can be found with his team and the cadets on the river every Tuesday and Thursday evening honing their water-craft skills and preparing for regional and national competitions.
Roger, who has also been nominated for the Citizen of the Year award, said: “Being nominated for the Pride of Stratford awards is fantastic in itself, but being told you have made the final stage is just amazing.
“Volunteering with the Sea Cadets has given me the opportunity to pass on the skills I have learnt to cadets. It has also given me the opportunity to meet some truly amazing people who don’t think twice about giving up their time for the youth of today.
“We have some incredible cadets, and when they join us most of them are really shy, but by the time they leave they have grown into confident young adults with many different life skills under their belt.
“To know that what we do really makes a difference in these cadets lives is very rewarding, and to be recognised for this means a great deal.”