Local charity supporter is crowned champion

Patricia, Aidan and Aileen Crawford pictured at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers at the Culloden Hotel. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.
Patricia, Aidan and Aileen Crawford pictured at the Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers at the Culloden Hotel. Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Aidan Crawford from Ballymena has been named Charity Champion of the Year at the 2017 Sunday Life Spirit of Northern Ireland Awards with Specsavers.

The awards recognise and celebrate unsung community heroes – ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things to make a real difference to life in Northern Ireland, touching the hearts of their neighbours along the way.

Over 350 people, including the 10 remarkable winners and their families attended the star-studded bash at the Culloden Hotel, which was hosted by UTV’s Mark Mallett and Pamela Ballantine.

Aidan is Northern Ireland Regional Manager of the Society of St Vincent de Paul, a Christian voluntary organisation which works with poor and disadvantaged people in Northern Ireland and overseas through providing help, support, friendship and better social justice.

As well as helping people in Northern Ireland break the cycle of poverty, more recently Aidan has been involved in gathering and distributing aid to Syrian refugees and has even travelled to help at refugee camps in Greece and France where he witnessed heart-breaking scenes.

Judges of the awards said: “He is a true inspiration to everyone involved with St Vincent de Paul and will not stop until dignity and respect has been restored to refugees, calling on governments to do more to help.”

Aidan, was presented with the award by Conor Boyle from category sponsor Lidl along with IBF bantamweight world champion Ryan Burnett.

Celebrities who attended on the night to present awards included veteran broadcaster Eamonn Holmes, who had been on the judging panel, soap stars including Lucy Fallon who plays Bethany in Coronation Street, Emmerdale actors Dominic Brunt, Gaynor Faye, Michelle Hardwick, Liam Fox, otherwise known as Paddy, Megan, Vanessa and Dan.

Local actresses Bronagh Waugh and Niamh McGrady were also there to present awards and celebrate the winners’ achievements.

Other big names presenting awards included NI football manager Michael O’Neill, Ulster player Craig Gilroy and Miss Northern Ireland Anna Henry, who took to the stage to honour the category winners.

The crowd were entertained by Boyzlife singers Keith Duffy and Brian McFadden and Britain’s Got Talent finalists St Patrick’s Junior Choir from Drumgreenagh, Co Down.

Brian O’Kane, Chairman of Specsavers Northern Ireland and director of Cookstown and Magherafelt Specsavers stores said: “We at Specsavers are so thrilled and proud to be title sponsor of such a special event which celebrates the unsung heroes in our communities across Northern Ireland and we were absolutely overwhelmed to receive over 1,000 entries this year.

“As a judge it was certainly a challenge to choose just 10 winners as there were so many stories which moved us and highlighted the amazing community spirit which is not just alive, but thriving here.

“Each winner has shown incredible courage, grace and strength, putting others’ needs before their own and for that we warmly congratulate them and thank them for the inspirational qualities they have shown.”