Celebrating amazing achievements of people with sight loss
Thursday, 22 June 2017
Danielle Colcombe, Connect Community Facilitator, attended the EyeCan Awards last week to celebrate the wonderful achievements of the finalists.
It’s Friday night, I’m excited and a little nervous as I put on my best party frock and heels, grab my recoding equipment and jump on a train to Leyland in Lancashire for this year’s EyeCan Awards.
It’s estimated that over 163,000 people across the North West of England are living with sight loss. Local blind societies, like Galloways, see daily examples of people with sight loss overcoming life’s challenges with courage and determination. The awards were created to celebrate what can be achieved by blind and partially sighted people of all ages when they are given the right opportunities, encouragement and support.
As my colleague Helen and I approached the very lovely Wellington Park Hotel, we became very giddy at the prospect of our nominated volunteers winning their respective categories. As we enter, we are welcomed with a glass of bubbly by very helpful hosts from Galloways. There’s a definite buzz in the room as people from across the sector network and mingle; we hear whispers of “I wonder who’ll win?” and “Who’s this Kevin guy?”
Curious myself, I did some research, only to find that Kevin Fitzpatrick is a BBC Political Correspondent and guest VIP speaker for the evening. Imagine my nerves when I check the seating plan to find he’s sitting right next to me! After all, I am planning to interview the award winners and with absolutely no media training whatsoever I suddenly feel slightly unprepared. I thought I best get some practice in quickly.
I approached a few of the nominee’s to find out how they were feeling. Mark Rogerson - nominated for the Inspirational Award - said: “It feels a bit surreal really. I don’t do any of this for recognition so getting nominated, although very nice, is still a bit surreal.” Dawn Taylor, Rehabilitation Officer - nominated for the Eye Care Professional Award - said: “I feel very privileged, excited and nervous. It’s nice to be recognised for the work I do.”
After a little warm up and glass of bubbly, I feel ready to tackle the big wigs of the evening. Confidently, I approach Galloways CEO Stuart Clayton and ask him to say a few words about the importance of the awards: “We wanted to do something to celebrate the wonderful work of volunteers and visually impaired people across our patch. It’s about recognising what people can achieve and the difference they make.”
After devouring a wonderful three-course dinner and listening to some wonderful guest speakers, including Kevin’s hilarious whistle-stop tour of his journalism career, it’s time for the awards.
One member of RNIB staff and three volunteers were successfully shortlisted for awards:
Lynne Rennison and Louise Dwyer were shortlisted for Education and Influence Awards
Maria Pikulski was shortlisted for Eye Health Professional Award, and
Mark Rogerson for Inspirational Achievement Award.
The suspense is intense as the nominees are read out and one by one the winners announced. It’s incredible to hear of the amazing achievements reached by all of the nominees; professionals, volunteers and peers with varying degrees of sight loss. Each and every nominee are true winners and I feel humbled by their individual stories.
As if things weren’t exciting enough, imagine my glee when three of the four nominees mentioned above took home the gongs in their respective categories; Mark, Lynne and Maria – a massive well done to you!
I managed to grab a few elated winners for comment. Lynne, who founded Peer Support group Sight Seekers, said: “I feel very overwhelmed because I don’t really think I’m doing anything special. I think this demonstrates the passion I show for anyone who’s VI.” Douglas, who won the Young Person of the Year Award, said: “Visual impairment doesn’t have to stop you from doing what you want to do.” Maria, an Eye Clinic Liaison Officer said: “I was very emotional and feel very proud, I love my job!”
Sponsors of the evening, the Eric Wright Group said: “We are very proud to be part of the Galloways family. All of the nominees are winners; they inspire everyone; sighted and blind or partially sighted to see just what can be achieved in their lives.”
A truly moving evening; my congratulations go to the entire army of nominee’s and my thanks to Galloways for hosting a fun-filled evening. I was so caught up in the enthusiasm of the evening, I missed my train home.