Fundraisers, sports teams and volunteers all recognised as finalists in this year’s St Neots Awards

Voting will open shortly for the St Neots Awards.

Voting will open shortly for the St Neots Awards. - Credit: Archant

St Neots Town Council has announced the finalist for its 2017 awards programme and members of the public now have a chance to vote and pick their winners.

The seven award categories were chosen to recognise young people and adults who have made an outstanding contribution to the community.

The town council received hundreds of nominations for individuals and groups and have said the short-listing panel had a difficult task drawing up a list of 20 finalists.

Katie Williams, development manager at St Neots Town Council, said: “We’d like to say a big thank you to all those who nominated individuals and groups this year, it was a real treat for our judges to read all the fantastic entries, making their decision even more difficult.”

The 2017 finalists for the St Neots Awards:

Fundraiser of the Year (sponsored by Bosch Rexroth)

Alexis Ellison

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Alexis (Lex) is father to five-year-old Samson who was diagnosed with Duchenne muscular dystrophy in 2015. Since then Alexis has worked tirelessly to raise awareness about the condition and fundraise for the charity, Action Duchenne, to aid research into finding a cure for this progressive, life-limiting, condition, in the hope of helping his son and other families affected by the condition. Over the past year Alexis has taken part in the Parallel London event; pushed his son in a 10km race; taken part in the world’s Toughest Mudder competition in the Nevada desert; completed a 100km bike ride from Newcastle to London, and completed a parachute jump. He also donned a sandwich board and walked the streets of St Neots and Norwich to raise awareness of Action Duchenne. Lex’s efforts have raised more than £3,000 for the charity. He is a brilliant example of positivity and resilience to his family and the wider community.

The judging panel said: “Alexis has shown outstanding dedication and determination to face the challenge and raise awareness about his son’s condition; he is an inspirational member of our community.

Mary D’Cruz

Mary became a volunteer for the Coffee Pot Memory Café in 2012 - a charity set up by Rotary to provide friendship and social support for those affected by dementia and memory loss. Mary has raised more than £7,000 for the charity by organising stalls and selling crafts at events and the St Neots Farmers Market. Mary does not drive and so has to transport stall items on foot to and from venues across town, often making more than one trip to move equipment.

The judging panel said: “Mary has been described as an avid fundraiser, who is diligent in all she undertakes, devoting herself tirelessly to fundraising. Without Mary’s zeal and enthusiasm, the service and support provided to the St Neots community by the Coffee Pot Memory Cafe would not be possible.”

Connie Hutchinson

After being affected by a family friend’s baby being stillborn, Connie (aged 10) felt driven to fundraise for a charity, which the family set up in their son’s memory, Miller’s Stars – which provides memory boxes and cuddle cots to hospitals for families affected by stillbirth.

After researching fundraising ideas on the internet, Connie decided to embark on a sponsored haircut and set up her own Just Giving page to fundraise. She decided to have 10 inches cut off her hair and raised more than £400. Connie also donated her cut hair to The

Little Princess Trust, a charity providing real hair wigs for children affected by cancer and other illnesses which cause hair loss.

The St Neots Awards judging panel described Connie has having: “exceptional awareness and sensitivity at such a young age and coming up with an innovative idea, showing selfless courage”.

Volunteer of the Year (sponsored by Leeds Day Solicitors)

Debbie Abbott

Debbie works as a midwife at Hinchingbrooke Hospital and also volunteers as a breast feeding counsellor for the Association of Breastfeeding Mothers (ABM), providing advice and assistance to new mothers. Debbie runs a drop-in clinic at the Eaton’s Children’s Centre and visits mothers at home and provides assistance on the phone to support mothers facing breast feeding challenges. Debbie has been described as being “incredibly knowledgeable and passionate about supporting breast feeding mothers” and has been dedicated to the volunteer role for more than 15 years.

One local mother said: “We are so lucky to have Debbie’s guidance and continuing support within our community. Debbie has been the ‘go to’ person for breast feeding support and advice among countless mothers in St Neots.”

The St Neots Awards judging panel commented: “Debbie is clearly a vital support for mothers in our community and is a dedicated nurse extending her professional knowledge in a volunteer capacity, going above and beyond to help new mothers achieve their breast feeding goals.”

Emma Stevens

Emma has led a successful campaign to bring together the Love’s Farm community to work with Cambridge County Council to find a solution to the need for catchment children on Love’s Farm to be educated at their local school. Emma raised concerns with the county council in January, with regards to

inadequate space for catchment children on Loves Farm at The Roundhouse Primary Academy. When the school places were announced on April 18, 18 families living on Love’s Farm were not allocated places at the school, so Emma set up the Roundhouse Capacity Campaign, lobbying the county council to increase the capacity of the school. Emma has devoted her time to lead this campaign for several months to help the community and families of Loves Farm. Emma presented a petition of more than 250 signatures to the children’s and young people’s committee at the county council. This resulted in the county council proposing a permanent solution to tackle school capacity issues for Love’s Farm children from September 2018.

The judging panel were impressed with Emma’s strength and resilience to instigate and lead a successful community campaign, influencing change, to benefit the families of Loves Farm.

Georgina Corley

Georgina set up the St Neots Timebank five years ago to bring people together to share their skills and help each other with jobs such as gardening and DIY tasks. Everything that Georgina does for the timebank is on a voluntary basis, and other members describe her as being available to answer queries seven days a week, by phone, email and text. The timebank runs lots of events; Georgina oversees all events and groups, making sure they run

smoothly and that people get along and make connections with each other. She designs and produces a monthly newsletter and publicity including liaising with local media outlets to advertise. She attends meetings representing the timebank in the region and nationally.

One timebank member described Georgina as “one of the most giving people I have ever met”. The judges said: “Georgina is a remarkable volunteer putting others before herself. Her dedication goes above and beyond expectations.”

Lifetime Achievement (sponsored by Anchor, Nelson’s Lodge Care Home)

John Davies

John Davies has served St Neots for the past two decades through his involvement with the St Neots Town Centre Initiative (TCI). From 2000 to 2016 he was chairman of the initiative, which was a voluntary role. The initiative was originally set up to provide a forum for local government,

businesses, organisations and residents to interact and work cohesively. Over the years, John has provided substantial input and been instrumental to many local projects including 20:20 Vision, the Town Centre Prospectus, the Priory Centre Study, the Civic Trust survey, the Jubilee Garden,

pedestrian finger sign posts, the market town bench marking project in 2011, the new Priory waterfront charter project, the St Neots green corridor project and the landscaping plans for the green spaces in the Loves Farm development. John also established and facilitated St Neots Retail Club and the highly regarded St Neots Manufacturing Club after the demise of St Neots & District Chamber of Commerce & Industry.

The judging panel described John as “an excellent example of prolonged service to the town, local environment, residential and business community”.

Ken Minney

Ken has devoted many years to supporting the St Neots branch of the Royal British Legion. Elected as branch chairman in 1995, Ken held the position until 2016, when, aged 83, ill health forced him to step down. In addition to his 21-year service, Ken was also the Poppy Appeal organiser, raising

several thousand pounds for the cause and was instrumental in organising the town’s annual Remembrance service and parade for many years.

Ken is described as showing “total commitment, determination and dedication to what he sees as his duty”. The judges commented: “Ken has been a lifetime supporter of military charities and has dedicated his time to help those less fortunate.”

Trevor Gunton

Trevor was a co-founder of the Friends of Paxton Pits Nature Reserve in 1989 and has served the reserve tirelessly ever since as a trustee and volunteer. His achievements include taking the friends group to beyond 2,500 members, making it the biggest friends group in nature conservation in the UK, raising more than £10,000 for the reserve through his book project. The Friends Group is a registered charity and donates all its income to the reserve. Trevor has led all fundraising efforts, volunteer recruitment, events and outreach to make the friends a thriving and active support group with more than 100 volunteers. Visitors come from all over the UK to see and hear the birds at Paxton Pits. The reserve has been described as a “national treasure” adding a great deal to the quality of local life and educating the community on wildlife education and preservation.

The judging panel described Trevor as: “an excellent champion for the local environment, wildlife and nature. His dedication to conservation work will ensure knowledge is passed on for future generations to enjoy.”

The Mayor’s Award (supported by the mayor of St Neots)

Sam and Liam Smith

The Smith family have shown sheer courage and determination and have been described as a “truly inspirational family”.

Their son, Zachery was diagnosed with cerebral palsy in 2010. Since then they have worked tirelessly to fundraise almost £20,000 so Zachery can have equipment and operations to make his life more comfortable. Sam’s parents have entered Tough Mudder, triathlons and marathons, organised fun

days, events and raffles to fundraise, whilst all the time never giving up hope for their son and always keeping a smile on their faces.

The judging panel said: “an inspirational, compassionate and caring family, fundraising to cope with hardship and raise awareness about cerebral palsy”.

The Smith family said: “We are lost for words to hear that we are finalists for the Mayors Award. It’s a great pleasure to be recognised for our efforts but we couldn’t have achieved it without our family and friends.”

Saavedra Family

Emilio Saavedra suffers from Neurofibromatosis, a little known neuro-genetic condition affecting nerve tissue, causing numerous medical conditions. Despite dealing with the challenge Emilio’s condition brings, the Saavedra family dedicate their time to raising money and awareness for the

Neuro Foundation. In just four years the family has raised an outstanding £104,000 for the charity through fundraising events including the Butterfly Kisses Ball and Team Emilio London Marathon running team from St Neots. Emilio’s parents also work full time, whilst caring for Emilio and their

two other children.

The judging panel said: “The Saavedra family’s strength has inspired the whole community.”

Melanie Saavedra said: “Wow, we are overwhelmed by this. We are just the same as every other family trying to make the most out of life and deal with

Emilio’s hurdles as they happen.”

Thomas and Charlie Bell

Thomas and Charlie are young carers for their mother. They care physically and emotionally for their mum, who has undergone numerous surgeries due to chronic crohn’s disease, which has left her with extreme fatigue, needing daily medication, which the boys help with. She also suffers from

Rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis, meaning she is in constant pain. The boys love to help with things around the house, including cooking and cleaning and are proud that they are part of making sure their mum is okay at all times. They do not see their caring role in a negative light; instead they take pride in what they do for their mum and have provided a vital role in her recovery.

Thomas and Charlie have also helped Carers Trust Cambridgeshire raise awareness of young carers in this region, by helping on information stands at events, collecting donations and assisting the charity with identifying hidden carers in the community. They have also spoken publicly at school

assemblies about their experience of being young carers.

The judging panel described Thomas and Charlie as: “inspiring young carers who are role models for the youth of St Neots and a voice for other young carers.”

Sports Person of the Year (sponsored by Hunt and Coombs Solicitors)

Erin Hall

Despite only taking up dragon boating as a sport just over a year ago, Erin was selected to join the Great Britain Junior Dragon Boat squad to compete at the World Junior Championships in France earlier this year. The GB crew had great success, achieving a gold medal in their class, of which Erin was a part of.

Erin has been described by her coaches as a “shining light” to other junior members of the St Neots Dragon Boat Team, showing them how hard work and dedication can pay off. The judging panel described Erin as: “a young role model and fine sporting representative for our town, having achieved outstanding results, through dedication to the sport of dragon boating.”

Erin commented: “I feel privileged and humbled that I have been shortlisted for this award as I have only been doing this sport for one year with the club that I paddle for, St Neots Dragon Boat Team (SNDBT). It is through this team that I was given the opportunity six months ago to train with the Great Britain under-18 Dragon Boat squad and was selected to represent my country at the World Championships. I was honoured to be selected and to become a world champion was an experience that I will never forget. To then come home from the championships in France to find I had been nominated for this award was the icing on the cake and I am genuinely honoured that I have been shortlisted as a finalist. To get to this level took a lot of hard work and dedication and I wouldn’t have been able to go as far as I have without the support of SNDBT and the GB squad. I have also had support from many others including Lovett Sales and Lettings and St Neots Town Council who helped to fund my training and kit.”

Zac Taylor

Zac is a talented footballer and cricketer, who at the tender age of seven was scouted to play for Cambridge United and Norwich City Football Club. Zac chose to play for Cambridge United and also continues to play for Little Paxton Colts as well as Eaton Socon Cricket Club’s under

U9 youth team. During the 2016/2017 football season, Zac made 24 appearances for Little Paxton Colts U7’s, scoring 105 competitive goals. He also captained the team in the Hunts Mini League Cup final, where Little Paxton Colts won the title for the first time in the club’s history, beating Huntingdon in the final. Zac spends a lot of time playing football with his friends and passing on skills that he has learnt. Zac remains dedicated to his local Colts team and was voted Players’ Player for the 2016/2017 season. Zac was selected to play for Cambridge United U7’s for all their

matches last season (playing Luton Town, MK Dons, Fulham, Watford and West Brom), and scored 12 goals for them. Zac has now been offered a place in the Cambridge United U8’s squad for next season and will have the opportunity to work with the academy coaches and fitness team.

During the summer months, Zac is also a batsman and wicket keeper for Eaton Socon Cricket Club’s U9 team. In 2016, the team came second in the Hunts league and Zac was awarded “Catch of the Season” by the club. In 2017, the team won the Eaton Socon invitation tournament and topped the

table of the Hunts League.

Zac said: “I’m really excited about making it through to the final of the awards. I love playing football for Little Paxton and Cambridge and am looking forward to scoring more goals this season.”

Community Group/Project of the Year (sponsored by Lovett Sales and Lettings)

Riverside Miniature Railway

The Riverside Miniature Railway (RMR) is a community miniature railway built for the enjoyment of residents and visitors to St Neots. The railway is built, maintained and operated by a group of unpaid volunteers. The volunteers have worked tirelessly to obtain finances for the railway through

generous grants provided by local government, Rotary and local businesses, as well as sponsorship from the general public. Many volunteers have also committed their own personal funds to the project, as well as many man-hours to keep the project moving forward. RMR were able to operate some trains in Easter 2017 and are now operating every weekend until October. In addition they have also been able to involve local groups such as Switch

Now and school children in the project. RMR’s commitment to sustainability is also important. Recycled products are used wherever possible, and the group has made an effort to disturb as little of the surrounding flora and fauna as possible. They are creating a useful, exciting resource in the park in an area which would likely otherwise have no use to the town.

The judging panel described the Riverside Miniature Railway as “an innovative, community asset project, achieving a great deal in a short time, providing significant value to the local community and tourism.”

Roundhouse Capacity Campaign

The Roundhouse Capacity Campaign is a successful, volunteer led movement lobbying Cambridge County Council to find a solution to the need for catchment children on Love’s Farm to be educated at their local school.

Concerns were raised to the county council in January, with regards to inadequate space for catchment children on Loves Farm at The Roundhouse Primary Academy. When the school places were announced on April 18, 18 families living on Love’s Farm did not have places at the school. The geography of Love’s Farm makes this a unique situation. The school is in the centre of the estate and the only access into the estate is to the south, meaning children north of the school will have to drive past the school to get to alternative schools. The catchment area covers the whole of Love’s Farm. However, the admissions area is getting smaller each year and is now only 400m from the school. The campaign has received wide local support and the group led a petition with more than 250 signatures and presented it the children’s and young peoples committee at Cambridge County Council. This resulted in the county council proposing a permanent solution to tackle school capacity issues for Love’s Farm children from September 2018. The judges commented: “The Roundhouse Capacity Campaign is a strong community-led project, seeking to benefit local primary school children.”


Vir2oso is a volunteer-led art project - established three years ago - to provide children, young people and families with the opportunity to explore, develop and inspire their creative side through arts and crafts. Vir2oso was born after founder Tracey’s severely dyslexic son asked his mum to “start an art club”. Tracey decided to create a group where she could encourage young people to flourish and explore creative thinking.

Three years later Vir2oso is now a thriving group with several volunteers supporting their activities and events. They have worked with St Neots locality team and Centre 33 which support young adults with mental health issues. They have created murals at Eynesbury Church and Priory Junior School, displayed community art pieces at Loves Farm House and regularly attend annual town events and the Farmers Market. Most recently the group has renovated an old caravan to convert it into an all-weather art studio. The judging panel described Vir2oso as: “an asset to the town, having made an outstanding contribution to art education and creative thinking for young people in our community”.

Sports Group/Club of the Year (sponsored by Giggs & Co)

Falcon Flames

The Falcon Flames are a cheerleading club established by experienced cheerleader Emily Wright nine years ago. Cheerleading is a fully inclusive team sport enabling people of all ages to be active, have fun, share aspirations and work as a team to achieve goals. Over the years the club has grown to

offer a wide range of classes including cheer for fun, cheer for minis, cheer for juniors, stunt, and dance. The club organise a yearly show at the Priory Centre where the cheerleaders perform and have fun; some members compete in national competitions and the Flames have achieved great success. They can also been seen cheering at St Neots Football Club and Rugby Club games as well as local events including the annual Christmas lights switch on. The Flames have been particularly credited for their efforts in building children’s self-esteem and confidence, encouraging team work and celebrating all levels of achievement amongst their members. Emily, founder of the Flames said: “I am so honoured as a coach to watch my

cheerleaders grow and become well mannered, caring young people.”

Emily said: “we are overwhelmed to be nominated for an award, and thank our fabulous team of boys and girls who come along every week to make this

club what it is today. This is our 10th year and the Falcon Flames are soaring.”

St Neots Rowing Club

St Neots Rowing Club boasts a number of members who have competed as world champions at junior and under-23 levels, plus gold medallists at Youth Olympic Games. The club has competed at Henley Royal Regatta for the past two years and enjoyed considerable success at the Cambridge Town Bumps. Their annual two-day regatta attracts rowers to the town from all over Britain, and their regular learn-to-row courses continue to be over-subscribed. The club has enjoyed close ties with St Neots Round Table and supports other clubs in the town – in particular St Neots Dragon Boat Team and Riverside Runners – and works hard to maintain the town’s stretch of the River Great Ouse for river users to enjoy.

St Neots Rowing Club commented: “We are honoured to be shortlisted. We’ve been in the heart of the town for more than 150 years, giving

people the chance to try an alternative to more mainstream sports and opening their eyes to an exciting pastime with huge health benefits. We’d like to thank everyone who votes for St Neots Rowing Club in this year’s St Neots Awards and wish the best of luck to all other nominees.”

The Spartans

The Spartans are St Neots Dragon Boat Club’s youth team, comprising of paddlers between the ages of nine and 17. Despite being formed less than a year ago, The Spartans have had great success in the Great Britain U18 league. The crew was recently asked to feature in a CBBC production, promoting dragon boating as a sport. The Spartans has also caught the attention of GB U18 head coach, Matty Richardson, who claimed the paddlers were among the best he had seen after such a short space of time together. Dan Clarke, The Spartans coach, commented: “We are in an exciting phase of our team’s

development; the juniors have achieved so much in such a short space of time, all without ever allowing the sport to become too serious. The Spartans have done this all with broad smiles on their faces, displaying all the great values of sportsmanship, friendship and the dedication to both the physical and mental side of becoming young champions.

The judging panel said: “The Spartans have achieved outstanding results in a short space of time. They are a great benefit to the youth of St Neots, to promote this unique water sport.”

St Neots Town Council would like to thank all this year’s corporate sponsors for their generous support, which has made this year’s event possible.

Voting is predominately taking place online via the website:

Postal votes will be accepted for those who do not have access to the internet. The awards team will also be attending the Farmers Market and Outdoor Film event on Saturday (September 9).

The public vote closes on September 17 so the town council would like to urge people to vote for their preferred winners as soon as possible, so not to miss the opportunity.

All the finalists are invited to attend a glamorous awards evening on September 29 at The Priory Centre where the winners will be announced. To place a vote and keep up to date with the latest event news go to: and follow the awards on social media.

Twitter: @stneotsawards

Facebook: @stneotsawards