YEP Christmas Honours List: Celebrating Leeds’s bright stars of 2015

The YEP is celebrating the most inspirational people in Leeds.

The YEP is celebrating the most inspirational people in Leeds.

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Today the Yorkshire Evening Post celebrates some of the city’s most inspirational people – from sporting stars and policemen to life-saving youngsters and grandparents.

In the run up to Christmas we asked our readers to reflect on the year and nominate those who had truly made a difference to our city and communities.

The response we have had was overwhelming, with many keen to show what people in the city are capable of.

Today, on Christmas Eve, we celebrate some of the best that Leeds has to offer.

Juliette Bains reports.

KADELL ANDERSON-BROWN: LIFESAVER

At the age of just four, Kadell sprang into action when his mum, Mawena Brown, had a suspected heart attack.

Quick-thinking Kadell managed to give his full address and phone number to the 999 call handler when Mawena collapsed at home with chest pains and shortness of breath.

His brave actions saved his mother’s life, as she suffers from a condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy – a genetic condition that affects the heart and can result in sudden death.

She said: “I am very proud of him. He’s very clever.”

Speaking about Kadell making the YEP’S Christmas Honours list, his grandmother Beverley Thornton, said: “He’s fantastic and we look forward to seeing his face in the paper again.

“He won a Yorkshire Children of Courage Award earlier this year for Young Hero of the Year.

“I’m not sure he understands how important his actions were but he’s just fantastic and so brave.”

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ORGAN DONORS: SUPPORTING YEP CAMPAIGN

Almost 27,000 people showed their support for the YEP-backed Be a Hero campaign and signed up to the NHS Organ Donor Register in just its first three months.

In Leeds alone, 5,000 people signed up after the YEP helped to raise awareness of organ donation and the need for people to discuss their wishes.

The incredible figure was announced just 12 weeks after the campaign, led by Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, launched.

It was sparked after it emerged that just 42 Leeds families, and 114 across Yorkshire, consented to organ donation last year as around 800 people in the county await lifesaving transplants.

Throughout the campaign the YEP has highlighted the stories of those desperately in need of transplants as well as the brave families that have consented to donation.

Nine-year-old James Hodgson was one of those featured. His life was saved by a transplant in 2008 after a liver disorder left him severely ill.

His mum Rachel, from Wakefield, has been overwhelmed by the support for the campaign.

She said: “It’s fantastic and it has made it worthwhile for us to go back through James’ story. For people to see in the paper and on TV has really got the message across.”

AVONDALE FISHERIES: FEEDING HOMELESS AND ELDERLY

Staff at the fish and chip shop in Wakefield are going the extra mile on Christmas Day, serving food for the local homeless and elderly.

Owners Angela and James Blair took to Facebook to share their plans, with the post being shared more than 14,000 times.

They will distribute the meals via a voucher system run in conjunction with Wakefield Council, and will also deliver meals to homeless people in Castleford.

Grandmother-of-five Angela, 42, said they had been overwhelmed with the response.

She said: “I’m a bit shocked to be honest. People have offered all sorts of different things to help.

“There are a lot of lonely people at Christmas and it’s nice to bring people together.”

KEVIN SINFIELD: RUGBY LEGEND

Former Leeds Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield has been awarded a YEP Christmas Honour for the second year in a row.

Sinfield has been hailed as one of rugby league’s all-time greats and just this week came in second place in the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year vote, just losing out to tennis champ Andy Murray.

The past year has seen Sinfield lead the Rhinos to an historic treble before switching codes to join Yorkshire Carnegie.

Speaking after the SPOTY, he said: “It’s been an unbelievable year and I am eternally grateful for everyone who has voted tonight, to everyone at Leeds and also the wider game.”

RFL chief executive Nigel Wood, said: “Kevin Sinfield is without doubt one of the greatest players to ever play rugby league.

“He is an outstanding individual and a superb role model.

“He is the ultimate professional, an inspirational captain and the way in which he finished his rugby league career, leading Leeds Rhinos to a historic treble, was a fitting end for a true great of our sport.”

LEEDS RHINOS: A YEAR TO REMEMBER

Leeds Rhinos are basking in the glow of their treble winning season, the most successful in the club’s proud history.

First they lit up Wembley with a 50-0 thrashing of Hull KR in the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final in August.

Then a last-gasp Ryan Hall try against Huddersfield Giants clinched the League Leaders Shield for the club in September.

To top things off they beat Wigan Warriors 22-20 in the Grand Final at Old Trafford in October to complete the treble.

Speaking after the victory, coach Brian McDermott said: “I wasn’t here for the three in a row [successive Grand Final wins from 2007-2009] and they’ll have to qualify whether this is up there with that.”

“That in itself was unbelievably special and I’m not sure whether that will ever get done again, but to do the treble in the same year is brilliant. It will stay with us forever.”

Leeds Rhinos were also longlisted for the team of the year in the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Awards, while boss Brian McDermott was a contender for the coaching award, but they missed out to Great Britain’s Davis Cup tennis squad and Northern Ireland football’s Michael O’Neill.

UMER SAEED: PUTTING HIS LIFE ON THE LINE

Police officer Umer Saeed was hailed a hero after rushing into a burning home to rescue a mother and her two young children.

PC Saeed smashed a window to get into the property in Ireland Wood, Leeds, following an early hours 999 call.

He managed to lead the family – who were trapped in an upstairs room – to safety before firefighters got there.

He said: “I didn’t think of it as putting myself at risk. I could see they were frightened and needed help.”

“I could see them up at the window looking visibly distressed when we got there and I wanted to make sure they were okay.”

The family was treated for smoke inhalation but were not seriously injured.

Leeds police commander, temporary Chief Supt Mabs Hussain, said at the time: “PC Saeed clearly displayed the qualities of bravery and professionalism that we so often see from our officers.”

SKYE SUTCLIFFE AND FAMILY: BRAVERY IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY

Brave Leeds toddler Skye Sutcliffe tragically lost her battle against a rare combination of blood cancers this year.

Adorable tot Skye, from Middleton, had been miraculously deemed cancer-free in June following a long battle with acute lymphoblastic and myeloid leukaemia but in September it emerged that both strains of the disease had returned.

Skye, who only turned two in September, was initially diagnosed with leukaemia when she was 20 weeks old.

Her determined family has raised a staggering £17,000 for the Candlelighters and Delete Blood Cancer UK charities, while encouraging people to sign the bone marrow register.

Hundreds of well-wishers attended a firework display in tribute to Skye earlier this month.

Grandmother Amelia Sockett said: “It makes you realise that although it is quite a horrific time, there are people out there who are thinking of you.

“I am in awe of my daughter because she has been through a lot and is still fundraising even now.

“Skye’s dad and brothers have been fantastic and are so brave.”

LEEDS CITY VARIETIES: HISTORY IN THE MAKING

Everyone from Charlie Chaplin and Houdini to Tommy Cooper and Barbara Windsor has graced the stage of the historic Leeds City Varieties Music Hall, which marked its 150th birthday this year.

The famous Grade II-listed theatre celebrated the occasion with visual artists, piano players, Victorian parlour games, craft activities and stage performances back in June.

Special guests included showbiz favourites Billy Pearce, Bernie Clifton and Wendy King.

City Varieties can trace its roots back to an 18th century singing room that was attached to the White Swan pub, off Briggate.

It developed into a popular venue and the current theatre opened in 1865.

The building recently underwent a £9.2m refurbishment.

Catherine Hayward, learning officer at the City Varieties, said: “You’re always finding out new stories because it has such a strong place in people’s affections.

“We get a lot of older people on the tours who remember coming here 50 or 60 years ago and they can tell us first-hand what it was like and it’s those memories that help tell the story.”

BRIAN WHITAKER: QUICK-THINKING LIFESAVER

Great-grandfather Brian Whitaker is looking forward to spending Christmas with his wife Ann – an event he feared wouldn’t happen again after she suffered a terrifying heart attack at home.

Hero Brian, 76, helped save her life by performing emergency CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) on his wife when her heart stopped suddenly.

Ann, 76, has now recovered and is well enough for the couple of 56 years to finally go on the holiday they were forced to cancel due to the incident.

Speaking to the YEP, Mr Whitaker said: “I’m far from a hero – the 999 operator on the end of the phone is the heroine. She was so calm and measured when I was in a panic and told me exactly what to do.

“It was a bit overwhelming but the ambulance service were great.”

Mr Whitaker, who has 26 great-grandchildren and 19 grandchildren, won praise from the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust for his level-headedness and quick actions which saved his wife’s life.

PETER SMITH: MAKING LEEDS DEMENTIA-FRIENDLY

Readers have contacted the YEP to nominate Leeds dementia campaigner Peter Smith for the YEP Christmas Honours list.

Peter has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of dementia and support the carers and family members affected by it.

Peter, whose dementia friendly efforts have been backed by none other than Prime Minister David Cameron, has launched a dementia café at the Hare and Hounds pub in Rothwell and campaigned for the area to become the city’s first dementia friendly area, giving training to hundreds of staff at local businesses and public services including the police.

He also runs the monthly Tea Cosy memory café at Rothwell Parish Centre as well as a similar café in Woodlesford.

One reader said: “Peter has made a lot of difference to people’s lives and made us all feel we are not alone with the problem of dementia.”

Peter said: “The stuff I do in Rothwell is not about me. It’s about the people we support.

“This has blown me away and it’s nice to be recognised.”

THE WELL PHARMACY: GOING THE EXTRA MILE

YEP readers have nominated staff at The Well pharmacy in Beeston for going the extra mile for its customers.

One reader said: “They have been amazing over the past seven and half years for us.

“They have looked after all our prescriptions and medication for our little boy who suffers from a rare condition.

“They are there any time end of the phone. The pharmacist is brilliant and Denise Pratt who has been there 25 years is one amazing woman – so is Anne and the rest of staff.

“They go above and beyond for us and we couldn’t do without them.”

Manager Paul Murphy said: “We are all really excited. It’s just a normal job so it’s quite nice when someone recognises what you’re doing.

“It’s blown us away.”

PRODUCTION: Gangsta Granny, based on the book by comedian and Britains Got Talent judge David Walliams, is coming to Leeds Grand Theatre next week.

Gangsta Granny coming to Leeds