They’re the deserving West Yorkshire heroes who have sparkled this year.
Our stars of 2013 are the extraordinary everyday people who deserve praise this Christmas, having helped to make our region so special.
From selfless youngsters such as Cody Hartley, who took it upon herself to equip her school with life-saving defibrillators, to defiant athlete James Simpson, who lost both of his legs below the knee in Afghanistan, Leeds and West Yorkshire is littered with heroes.
The people who defy difficulties, go above and beyond, and never give up are those that mark our communities apart.
Nicola Furbisher, managing editor of the YEP, said: “We’re delighted to be able to highlight some of the incredible individuals who have proven an example to us all this year.
“Our stars of 2013 are truly inspirational people who deserve special praise for all they have done and continue to do for others.”
Leeds-based Make A Dream charity founder Francine Levin is another who is more than worthy of recognition for her continued charity work in the face of terminal cancer.
Middleton parents Tracy and Alex Asquith, whose son Kyle, 15, died suddenly in March, also made our list by inspiring others to sign up to be organ donors after Kyle’s organs saved five lives.
Below are our stars of 2013:
ARCTIC CONVOY: AFTER 70-YEAR WAIT FOR MEDAL
AS YOUNG men they risked their lives on a mission Winston Churchill called the worst journey in the world.
But veterans from the West Riding branch of the Russian Convoy Club had to wait almost 70 years for their service to their country to be recognised.
The Government finally agreed to give medals to those who took part in the Arctic Convoys, travelling in sub-zero temperatures under attack from Nazi Germany, delivering supplies to Russia.
The decision owed much to the campaign of Russian Convoy Club members and veterans elsewhere.
BETHANY HARE; TEENAGER HITS £50,000 MILESTONE
Schoolgirl Bethany Hare first hit the headlines by starring in a charity video dressed as Charlie Chaplin singing the hit song Smile.
The 14-year-old, from Horsforth, continued her fundraising this year, hitting the £50,000 mark through her Bethany Hare Smile Foundation to help hospices.
Bethany’s mum Yvonne said: “It’s fantastic that her work is being recognised – she never lets anybody down and she’s really devoted to what she does.”
With a fashion show in planning, Bethany’s ultimate aim is to raise £300,000 for a holiday cottage for poorly youngsters and families.
CARRIE-ANN CURTIS; LOSS SPARKED DESIRE TO SUPPORT PARENTS
From the tragic loss of her baby Charlie, who died just 19 minutes after birth, Carrie-Ann Curtis set out to support bereaved parents.
Charlie’s death from a rare condition called Potter Syndrome saw the Middleton mum seek counselling, a service in Leeds later branded in an NHS report as “inadequate and insufficient”.
Carrie-Ann has since set up the Charlies Angel Centre charity in the hope of both supporting grief-stricken parents and raising awareness of the rare illness that claimed her son’s life.
CODY HARTLEY: DETERMINED BID TO SAVE LIVES
Inspired by the story of a tragic 12-year-old boy, Cody Hartley is campaigning to have defibrillators in schools and public places.
The Thorpe local’s mission has seen lifesaving devices secured for her old school Thorpe Primary, her current school Rodillian High and at Newmillerdam Karate Club after she raised around £2,000.
Cody, 11, backs the YEP’s First Aid For All campaign to teach lifesaving skills to 500 people in Leeds and has no plans to stop raising money.
Hugh Hartley, Cody’s dad, said: “We are very, very proud of her – she definitely deserves recognition.”
FRANCINE LEVIN: DEFIANT IN BID TO HELP OTHERS
Despite the heartbreaking diagnosis of incurable cancer, Francine Levin has vowed to continue her selfless charity work.
The 66-year-old from Shadwell is continuing to turn the dreams of seriously-ill children into reality through the Make A Dream charity she founded in 1993 as she awaits the start of a new course of chemotherapy.
The mother-of-one said: “Personally it has been very difficult, it’s living under a black cloud every day of your life but I don’t want to be dominated by my illness.
“I’m still glad to be able to do the work I do.”
GORDAN SIBBALD: THE RETIRING RHUBARB KING
After 34 years training the region’s up and coming restaurateurs, butchers, bakers and even chocolate makers, chef-turned-author Gordon Sibbald has been an inspiration to many.
The 66-year-old, from Wakefield, stepped back from the kitchen and retired this year having headed catering and hospitality departments at Wakefield College and Leeds City College.
Credited with reinventing rhubarb as a key part of meals, Gordon’s catering skills spawned the annual Wakefield Rhubarb Festival – a red letter day on most foodies’s calendars.
JAMES SIMPSON: EX-SOLDIER RUNNING TO PROVE OTHERS CAN TOO
Losing both of his legs in an explosion in Afghanistan in 2009 was an obstacle Lance Bombardier James Simpson had to overcome.
The 27-year-old became the first British double amputee to run a Spartan Race 25-obstacle course in September, doing so on short prosthetic legs.
Lce Bdr Simpson, from Rawdon, has since taken on courses in Birmingham and most recently Texas to prove that disabilities don’t mean the end.
His mum Pauline Rogers said: “He just wants to say to people, ‘get out there and do it, your life’s not over’.”
JOE BARRY: CARING CAMPAIGNER PUTTING OTHERS BEFORE HIM
Courageous Joe Barry’s tireless campaigning to help save our Children’s Heart Surgery Unit came despite his own health problems.
The 17-year-old, from Beeston, was first found to have heart problems at 18 months and has since been under the knife several times. He had open heart surgery just last month.
Having worked through his GCSEs and A levels, Joe is a St John Ambulance cadet and works with the British Heart Foundation.
Sharon Barry, Joe’s mum, said: “I’m exceptionally proud of him. He just troops on.”
PETER ALDRED: BRINGING HERITAGE TO MASSES
Having collected a local history treasure trove over 55 years, Peter Aldred has been on a mission to pass on his life’s work.
The 80-year-old set up the Morley Heritage Centre, in Albion Street, Morley, this year to make his collection open to the public after losing his wife and two sons.
Peter is still searching for a permanent home for the artefacts, which cover the old Morley Borough’s industrial and social history.
He said: “I never expected this. I opened the centre because I’ve been interested in local history all my life – it’s something Morley needs.”
SHARON CHENG: LEADING CITY HEART UNIT FIGHT
The fight to keep LGI’s Children’s Heart Surgery Unit open was headed by a Sharon Cheng-led charity.
The director of the Children’s Heart Surgery Fund oversaw the delivery of the UK’s biggest ever regional petition, with 600,000 signatures, to Downing Street this year.
It came after the unit was recommended for closure as part of a shake up – a decision the charity took legal action against.
In March 2013 a High Court judge overturned the decision and an NHS review of children’s heart surgery units is expected to report back next year.
TOUR DE FRANCE: WELCOME TO YORKSHIRE’S INPUT
With the region hosting the start of the Tour de France, 2014 is shaping up to be a momentous sporting year for Yorkshire.
Led by tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire, the region shrugged off domestic scepticism and international competition to secure one of the biggest prizes in world sport this year.
A spokesman said: “The team at Welcome to Yorkshire feel very honoured to be mentioned in the Yorkshire Evening Post’s list and successfully bidding for the Tour de France couldn’t have happened without the support of our partners.”
ALEX AND TRACY ASQUITH: PASSING GIFT OF LIFE
Brave parents Tracy and Alex Asquith inspired others by speaking out about their son’s lifesaving legacy.
More than 100 extra people pledged the gift of life after the parents spoke of how their son Kyle saved the lives of two children and three adults when he became an organ donor.
Kyle’s mum Tracy said: “To say it’s been a tragic year it’s also been quite an amazing year as well, we’ve met some amazing people.”
The Middleton teen woke in March this year with a headache and later died of a brain haemorrhage. The family are still urging Organ Donor Register sign-ups.