Kalvin Phillips, Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield among inspirational Leeds people named as our Christmas Stars

Whether they're using their skills to save lives, ensuring nobody in their community has to go hungry or raising spirits through acts of kindness, what unites them all is the way they have made life better for others.

By Georgina Morris
Friday, 24th December 2021, 2:10 pm

They are just some of the many hard-working, compassionate and generous people across Leeds who have graced the pages of the Yorkshire Evening Post this year.

Today we name our 10 Christmas Stars for 2021 as thank them for all that they have done to make a difference over the past 12 months and more.

Norman Francis

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Clockwise from top left, Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield; Maureen Wilkes, and Mick Grundell with young fan Freddie Bremner Burnell. Pictures by Allan McKenzie/SWPix and submitted

Affectionately known to his friends and colleagues as 'Too Tall', 60-year-old Norman Francis has been helping people and playing basketball all his life.

The ex-professional player has been coaching youth teams for decades and has become a community leader through the example he sets.

Even having a leg amputated earlier this year could not keep him away from the basketball courts and he has returned to doing the work that he loves most with the young people of Chapeltown and surrounding areas.

Ruby Nicholson

Clockwise from top left, Scott Summers; Danny Malin; Ruby Nicholson with dad Leigh, and Norman Francis. Pictures by Simon Hulme and Jonathan Gawthorpe

It's the kind of situation that would panic many adults, but 12-year-old Ruby Nicholson did not hesitate when it was clear her dad needed the help of the paramedics.

When Leeds United pitch announcer Leigh had a heart attack in February, she stepped in to speak to the 999 operator, monitored his breathing and reassured 10-year-old brother Jack.

After a short hospital stay, Leigh was back home with the family and full of pride for the way his daughter had remained so level-headed and drawn on recent CPR training at her school.

Danny Malin

Clockwise from top left, James Tabor and Zoe Perrett; Kalvin Phillips and staff at the Elland Road Vaccination Centre. Pictures by Tony Johnson, Mike Egerton/PA and Simon Hulme

When it comes to cheering up others in a year when a little joy has been so desperately needed, few in Leeds have done more than YouTube sensation Danny Malin.

His 'collapsible table' takeaway reviews have been enjoyed by millions of people and he has even released a Christmas single in a bid to raise vital funds for causes close to his heart.

What makes his efforts all the more remarkable is that he has carried on despite the loss of his partner, Carrie, who died after suffering a cardiac arrest in February. The inspiration behind his decision to release a Christmas single, he has dedicated the track to her.

Mick Grundell

Sometimes it's the small moments that mean the most and nobody understands that better than Leeds United steward Mick Grundell, who is loved by fans for his many acts of kindness.

One such moment came in August this year when the 61-year-old lifted young fan Freddie Bremner Burnell onto the advertising boards to give a better view after a game.

The seven-year-old was absolutely thrilled, with Mick saying he simply loves speaking to the fans and "kids need memories like this".

James Tabor and Zoe Perrett

Slap & Pickle owners James Tabor and Zoe Perrett encapsulate the incredible spirit of so many of our city's independent businesses for the way in which they give back to the community.

The pair have been a lifeline for The Hawksworth Food Project, a food bank run by three churches in the area.

They have donated cash and provided equipment needed for deliveries, as well as collecting donations from their suppliers for around 100 Easter eggs and giving a further 850 themselves to ensure now child on the Hawksworth estate went without during lockdown.

Kalvin Phillips

Leeds United fans rejoiced last year when they saw midfielder Kalvin Phillips earning his first England call- up and seeing a homegrown hero play such a key role in this summer's World Cup has no doubt inspired the city's next generation of players.

Phillips earned plaudits for his role in helping the Three Lions to reach the latter stages of the tournament, striking up an impressive partnership with West Ham's Declan Rice in the heart of midfield.

He went on to be named England men's Player of the Year, winning the public vote with a whopping 40,000 votes.

Maureen Wilkes

A community stalwart who is loved in the area surrounding her Roundhay Road restaurant, Maureen Wilkes has owned the popular Maureen's Caribbean Takeaway since 2003.

During the Covid lockdown, she selflessly made food from the kitchen for key workers, emergency services, nurses, doctors and the community.

The modest 63-year-old said that after years of feeding people, she wanted to give something to people who were in need or working around the clock as part of the pandemic response.

Scott Summers

Scott Summers is only seven years old but he has already battled through chemotherapy for a rare childhood cancer and a nine-hour operation to remove tumours and one of his kidneys.

In the face of two lifelong illnesses, he has learned to walk again and continues to inspire his family with the way he tackles any setbacks.

He has also developed a passion for giving back and set up a cake and toy stall outside his Leeds home with sister Alara to raise valuable funds for a charity which helped the family during his treatment.

Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield

It is hard to imagine a more inspiring pair of friends than Rob Burrow and Kevin Sinfield, the former Leeds Rhinos teammates who have devoted themselves to raising funds for people living with motor neurone disease (MND).

Spurred on by Rob's diagnosis with the incurable condition in 2019, Kevin has raised close to £5m for MND charities after completing seven marathons in seven days last year and then running 101 miles from Leicester to Leeds in 24 hours back in November.

Meanwhile, Rob and his family are spearheading the Leeds Hospital Charity appeal to build a brand new centre in Leeds dedicated to treatment of MND.

All our healthcare heroes

No series of honours for 2021 would be complete without a sincere message of thanks to the incredible NHS staff and so many others who have led the city's response to the continuing Covid-19 pandemic.

For almost two years now, they have worked tirelessly in the face of multiple waves of the virus and shown true determination and compassion in caring for those who need them.

They have delivered hundreds of thousands of vaccinations to protect as many people as possible, been a source of comfort at bedsides when families could not, and helped to save countless lives through their efforts. They are true heroes and we salute them today.

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