IT was a night full of stories to warm the hearts.
The Pride of Hartlepool awards honoured the town’s most courageous and most inspiring people – and leading the way were our four children of courage.
An audience of 200 people were moved to tears by the bravery shown by Bradley Lowery, two, Saphere-Jae Espley, three, Callum Smith, two, and Lucy Wood, ten.
Callum Smith stole our hearts with his battle against a string of conditions, including epilepsy, reflux problems, dystonia, hypertonia, and problems with swallowing.
His story was so inspirational that the people of Hartlepool raised £12,000 for him and made sure he could have a sensory room in his home.
Two-year-old Bradley Lowery, from Blackhall, is battling rare childhood cancer neuroblastoma. A fundraising target of £500,000 has been set for treatment overseas, should he suffer a relapse.
Lucy Wood, from Peterlee, may suffer from multiple sclerosis but the ten-year-old still made time to raise money for charity by having her hair chopped off to support Bradley.
And Saphere-Jae Espley from Hartlepool is thought to be the only person in the world to suffer from both a brain tumour and kidney disorder which causes the kidneys to leak large amounts of protein into the urine and causes her body to fill with fluid. She has faced up to it all with a smile.
It was so hard to choose a winner, all four children were awarded trophies.
But they were only some of the highlights on a night to remember.
The other winners included young performer Ali Rasul, 13, who hit the headlines when he starred in Billy Elliot; Friends of Stranton Cemetery who were chosen as the green champions for their huge range of community initiatives; and Student of the Year Aarthi Suresh, 19, who has excelled in acting, piano playing, and in exams.
Just as triumphant were Bradley Lowery’s Neuroblastoma Fight Group which has raised thousands of pounds for one of our Children of Courage winners and PC Dave Halliday, who won the emergency services category for his excellent work to promote policing – even on his days off.
Ryan Clark, 21, was victorious in the sporting achievement sector for his rapid rise in the world of top-level snooker at just 21 and Kev’s Klub lifted the crown for the Community Group for the way it has transformed itself into a group catering for more than 30 people with special needs and their carers.
The community champion victor was Charmaine Twidale, 18, who has relentlessly carried out community work while holding down senior positions on projects across town.
Another outstanding highlight was the award which went to Mary Readman, 56, the woman who saved the life of Hartlepool councillor Ged Hall, 59, when he fell ill and dialled for help – with quick-thinking Mary realising what was wrong and alerting paramedics.