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National recognition for 12 Headway Heroes

Wed 16 Dec 2015

A Manchester man who rebuilt his life following a near-fatal brain injury is among the 12 people who were honoured in Headway's glittering awards ceremony at the Dorchester Hotel, London. 


Awards for Carer, Volunteer and Alex Richardson Achiever of the Year, along with The Stephen McAleese for Outstanding Contribution to Headway Award, recognise the outstanding achievements and contributions individuals and have made to the charity on a local and national level.

Celebrity including James Cracknell, Johnson Beharry VC, former England and Arsenal footballer Alan Smith, and TV antiques expert Eric Knowles graced the ceremony with their presence. Special guest and Softcell pop-icon Marc Almond also turned out to show his support and promote his new album, The Velvet Trail, with Headway receiving £1 from every concert ticket sold from his new tour.

Peter McCabe, Chief Executive of Headway, said: “The Headway Annual Awards is always a special event. It brings together some extraordinary people who have achieved so much to either rebuild their lives or support others affected by brain injury.

“The 12 finalists honoured in this year’s ceremony represent thousands of others across the UK who are demonstrating admirable determination to prove that there can be life after brain injury. They are all deserving of our recognition and thanks, and my congratulations go to each one of them.”

Alex Richardson Achiever of the Year

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Steven Lomas, from Salford, was crowned Achiever of the Year and presented with a special silver plate by James Cracknell, Vice President of the national charity.

Steven Lomas (second from left) collects his awardSteven has battled back from a severe brain injury as a result of a 2004 car accident that left him in a coma for six weeks. Overcoming issues including fatigue and difficulties controlling his emotions, Steven has shown incredible determination to gradually rebuild his life and he now lives with his wife Joanne. This year, Stephen was achieved a First Class (BSc Honours) degree in Professional Broadcasting Techniques. Turning the camera on himself, Stephen used his own experience to raise awareness of traumatic brain injury and thank Headway Stockport and South Manchester for supporting him.

Joining Steven as finalists in the Achiever category were Jeff Mayle, from Headway Cardiff, and Jamie McKechnie, from Headway South East London North West Kent.

Jeff Mayle was just 17 years old when a skateboarding accident in 1992 left him in a coma with a traumatic brain injury. From achieving top grades, Jeff was forced to rebuild his basic life skills from scratch. Undeterred, Jeff refocused and adapted to his brain injury and, this year, achieved his MSc degree in Computing. He also provides a brain injury survivor’s perspective in his role as a trustee of Headway Cardiff.

When Jamie McKechnie sustained a near-fatal brain injury in an unprovoked ‘one punch’ assault in 2011, the BMX-bike fanatic had two goals: to one day get back on his bike and to walk unaided down the aisle to marry his fiance, Ellen. With the ongoing support of Headway South East London North West Kent, Jamie successfully achieved both life targets. Jamie is now developing a community bike business that offers training opportunities to help young people overcome adversity and develop their careers.

In his winning speech, Achiever of the Year winner Steven Lomas said: "Wow. I've been knocked down and got back up again!

"For the first couple of years after my brain injury I didn't even want to be around. If it wasn't for Headway, I would still be at home feeling alone and not wanting to go out. The local Headway team really brought me out of my shell.

"People look at me and think there is nothing wrong with me. I have a scar on my arm from the car accident and a bolt on my head because I'm deaf in one ear, but I certainly don't look 'disabled'. We need to break down the stigma of head injury and I am proud that my film has served to raise awareness of Headway by showing that people like me do need support if there is to be life after brain injury."

Carer of the Year

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The Carer of the Year award went to Charlie Korving, from Headway Dorset.

Charlie Korving (centre) collects her awardWhen Charlie's husband Jake Korving was knocked off his bike by a careless driver in October 2011, the senior radiographer sustained a brain injury that caused him to forget Charlie's name, the couple's relationship, pet cat and even their wedding day. After making the heart-wrenching decision to not turn off Jake's life-support machine, Charlie fought hard to ensure Jake received the right care throughout a long and challenging battle to recovery. With support from Headway Dorset, she put her life and dream job on hold to provide the 24-hour care her loved one needed. Five years later, the couple renewed their wedding vows at a second ceremony in New York.

Charlie's fellow finalists were Kathryn Edgington, from Headway South Staffordshire, and Molly Veale, from Headway Lancaster and Morecambe Bay.

Ever since Marie Marsden sustained a brain injury after a road traffic collision in 2014, friend Kathryn Edgington has been an ever-present source of support. While juggling her own family and work commitments, nothing is too much trouble for Kathryn when it comes to helping her friend. With help from Headway South Staffordshire, she provides practical and emotional support to Marie and her husband Brian.

In 2005 Molly’s partner, Warren, was involved in a near-fatal motorbike accident. She immediately quit her university course and condensed a 40-hour working week into three days so that she could spend as much time as possible by his hospital bedside. This involved travelling from their home in the North West of England to London where for three nights a week – for eight years – she slept in her car in order to be near to Warren. Molly helped her now husband relearn how to walk and talk and even complete two charity triathlons with support from Headway Lancaster and Morecambe Bay.

Having received her award from James Cracknell, Charlie said: "All day I have been surrounded by such deserving people. After brain injury you can lose your sense of identity as a 'wife' as you redefine your role as carer, case manager, diplomat in social situations and even a mother figure at times, which can be very difficult.

"Jake is my gladiator husband who has worked to make such incredible strides to recovery after brain injury. He is the most stubborn, driven and focused individual on the planet and I love him.

"This award belongs to every member of the Headway Dorset's Warrior Women carers group, because every one of our members finds the strength to fight daily battles in order to give their loved ones the best chance of recovery after brain injury."

Volunteer of the Year

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Gill Leandro, from Headway West Kent, claimed the title of Volunteer of the Year.

Gill Leandro (centre) collects her awardRetired maths teacher Gill first discovered Headway West Kent when she helped a service user rebuild his basic numeracy skills after a brain injury cost him his job as an accountant. When Gill retired in 2002, she began delivering regular support sessions as part of members' rehabilitation. She soon became a regular volunteer at the local group, hosting five-course meals for members, offering her home for weekly woodwork sessions, providing 'Buddy service' support to members and raising more than £3,000 for the charity through fundraising events.

Joining Gill on stage in the Volunteer category was Headway Suffolk's Humphry Adair and Jean Martin Savage from Headway Darlington and District.

Consultant surgeon Humphry has been involved with Headway Suffolk since the group’s inception in 1982. A devoted board member, Humphry has spent the past 30 years juggling a successful medical and lecturing career while supporting Headway Suffolk to develop its services, even running weekly woodwork sessions for members.

Jean has played a pivotal role in the development of Headway Darlington and District since joining the steering group in 2012. Utilising more than 25 years of experience of helping people with rehabilitation after brain injury, Jean’s has managed the local group’s helpline service, organised training courses and delivered support sessions to members and their families.

Stephen McAleese Outstanding Contribution to Headway Award

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The final award to be presented was The Stephen McAleese Outstanding Contribution to Headway Award, named in loving memory of a brave man who defied a brain injury to help others affected. It was awarded to Peter Shaw, from Nottingham, to recognise more than a decade of dedicated support with Headway North Derbyshire.

Peter Shaw (third from left) collects his awardWhen Peter's son Neal sustained a brain injury in a road traffic accident, Peter became a key member – and eventually Chair – of Headway in Chesterfield with the goal of helping as many local families as possible affected by brain injury. Thanks to Peter's sterling work spending countless hours organising fundraising events, managing the group, supporting members and campaigning with local decision makers for better services, the branch developed into Headway North Derbyshire. Despite his own personal challenges and adversity, even today Peter devotes his time and life to the cause.

Jim Isaac, from Headway North Devon, and Robert Wilson, from Headway Oxfordshire, were also honoured as finalists.

In 1995, Jim became a founding member of Headway North Devon. Two decades later, Jim defies his own daily pain following a spinal cord injury to continue delivering weekly support services to people affected by brain injury.

Over the past two decades, Robert has raised more than £40,000 for Headway Oxfordshire by tackling extreme challenges across the world, inspired by his friend and brain injury survivor, Chris.

Peter Shaw said: "I am overwhelmed by this incredible honour. My son Neal knew Stephen McAleese personally, which makes this nomination even more special.

"The recognition should also go to the hardworking volunteers at Headway North Derbyshire who provide such a valuable service to local survivors of brain injury and their families."

Well done to each of our wonderful finalists!


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