The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically changed our lives, from restrictions both national and Tier 3 and 4, to furlough, job losses, impacts on small businesses and, sadly, the loss of loved ones.
But amidst the hardships there have been bright rays of light from all the extraordinary ‘ordinary’ people who have gone out of their way to help others or have had to overcome their own battles.
We asked you, our readers, who your Thanet heroes of 2020 were and were blown away by the massive response on our facebook page. There are so many inspirational, amazing people on our isle. Here are some of the dozens of people you chose.
Wilfred Jenkins and Aurora Pile-Gray and her mum Keisha are crowned as joint Thanet hero winners.
Wilfred, 24, from Westgate, has been praised for fundraising, sharing his daily sign language facebook videos and for his natural enthusiasm and kindness.
Animal-loving Wilfred lives with deafness and autism. He embraces life, living independently, joining in local causes and raising awareness of the hearing impaired community.
Among those nominating Wilfred was Sarah Wells who said: “Wilfred Jenkins because he has raised so much money for all different causes (particularly for the Theatre Royal) and has massively raised the awareness of deafness and BSL in Thanet in a good way. He literally throws his whole enthusiasm into each project he is a part of and his daily posts, photos and videos always make me smile. His love and compassion for animals, the environment and for people is infectious.”
Aurora and Keisha Pile-Gray were also nominated many times. Aurora,nine, was diagnosed with stage 4 Burkitts Lymphoma after becoming poorly towards the end of April.
The rare cancer affects blood and bone marrow. Aurora is due to undergo transplant after a bone marrow donor was found but faces spending Christmas in hospital and a long road still remains ahead of her.
At the moment Aurora is being treated by Royal Marsden Hospital and Great Ormond Street Hospital.
Nominations also voiced admiration for Keisha’s determination, extensive research, campaigning and fundraising, whilst her other two children are going through their own health battles.
Lorraine Pile-Gray said: “My niece Aurora is my hero, she is battling stage 4 Burkitts Lymphoma and has had a really tough year and still has a long battle ahead with needing to find a bone marrow donor. She continues with a smile and amazes me daily. Her mum Keisha is also a hero for battling by her side all year with no support due to covid.”
There were many other Thanet heroes and we tip our hats to all of them:
Aimee O’Rourke and all our frontline workers – many many keyworkers were nominated
Yvonne Addington said: “The amazing nurse who lost her life due to COVID and left 3 beautiful girls behind. She gave the ultimate sacrifice.”
Aimee studied as a mature student at Christ Church and later nursed at the East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust at the QEQM in Margate. Sadly, Aimee became one of the first healthcare professionals to die of Covid-19 in April 2020.
Aimee, who was just 39, died in QEQM hospital’s Critical Care Unit on April 2 after contracting coronavirus. The Margate mum left behind daughters, Megan, Mollie and Maddie.
She was described by colleagues as “a kind and caring nurse” who had “ a really special relationship with her patients and colleagues.”
Vicki Connor said: “ All the frontline workers as they are putting their lives at risk every day and get such little credit for it and the NHS, they deserved more than just a clap!”
Sheree Andrews said: “Lorraine Hambidge has been sewing for Britain to help our NHS with PPE during the pandemic. Sewing personal cushions for cancer patients at QEQM, constantly giving her time to help others in and around Westgate. Always thinking of others even though her own health is not 100%.”
Carl Whitewood from Ramsgate Salvation Army
Carl runs the Ramsgate Salvation Army and is one of the lead members of the Thanet Winter Shelter. Susan Jane said: “Carl Whitewood from the Salvation Army for doing things for as many people as he can. And he has a good listening ear.”
Siân Lauren said: “Harriet Price for delivering babies throughout 2020 without ever complaining despite being worried about the virus and for always being there for me, no matter what time – day or night.. not to mention the amount of overtime this girl does, she’s definitely my hero.
“She lives in Margate, has just got married and would love to have children. She’s the most selfless person I know.Delivering babies is her passion.”
Judith and Tony Morland
Louisa Jayne Ruddock said: “ My mum Judith Morland has primary progressive MS. On February 15 she had a cardiac arrest. She was given a 6% chance of survival. She survived and even though she is now in a wheelchair her positivity and motivation is amazing! She never moans and is always there for others even with everything she has been through and is going through. And my dad Tony Morland for saving her life before the paramedics arrived.
“My mum trained at the Sea Bathing Hospital as a nurse and worked at QEQM, then the Pilgrims Hospice and went on to train as a counsellor.
“She was diagnosed with primary progressive MS soon after she retired but carried on doing private counselling until she had her cardiac arrest. My mum has always been an inspiration to me but when she had her diagnosis she remained so positive and carried on helping others.
“My dad gave her CPR for 15 minutes before the ambulance arrived and there is no way she would be here now if he hadn’t done that! Hence he is also our hero!”
Carrie Dougherty said: “ My beautiful sister Sophie Jacqueline is truly an inspiration because sadly she suffered from a brain aneurysm and spinal stroke and was in intensive care. She spent 6 months in three different hospitals including QEQM and defeated all the odds against her! We were told she wouldn’t be able to walk but she took her first steps earlier this year in Canterbury hospital. She is and always has been my hero
“She’s gone through so much, but is so determined to get better, especially for her family who have helped her so much, her daughter Jade, stepdaughter Chloe and partner Simon.”
Kerri Fordham said: “ Harmony, my niece, because throughout the pandemic she has been battling Ewing’s Sarcoma and having to shield and isolate while receiving chemotherapy and radiotherapy. As a 9 year old girl that is no easy task. Her determination, strength and courage has kept us as a family from falling apart. Not only that but Harmony raised £3600 for Sarcoma UK and has continued to raise awareness to as many people as she can, all alongside fighting cancer.”
Jodie Louise Nicholson said: “My son Reggie, a twin born at 25 weeks last December. He sadly lost his twin sister Willow. She fought so hard for 18 days. Reggie spent 4 months in NICU and came home in April. He has chronic lung disease and is on oxygen. He has ROP of the eyes grade 3, had laser eye surgery plus he lost his best friend and twin sister. My twins are my heroes. My warriors.”
Jackie Caldwell-Barr said: “Laura Sullivan of missing dogs and strays Thanet. Laura and her team of loyal volunteers go out in all weathers at all times to trap or look for and find lost animals. The longest sit out for trapping a missing dog was somewhere around 45 days/nights”.
Richard Goffin-Lecar said: “ I would like to nominate Raushan Ara. She and her family have lived in Ramsgate for over 30 years, and throughout this time, she has raised money for numerous local causes. These include various homelessness projects, the Foreland School, the Salvation Army, the RNLI, and the Friends of Charlotte and Albert Court. On top of this, she runs a successful restaurant business, and has a son with global special needs. Oh yes – she is also the mayor of Ramsgate!”
Alison Kemp said: “Stephen Kemp, my Dad. He beat lung and bowel cancer but passed away in August of hospital acquired pneumonia when he wasn’t given antibiotics for a chest infection too long after surviving an operation for a twisted bowel.
He was 71 and has 5 children. Danielle, who he took on as his own when he met my mum, me, Martin, Steven and Kelly. He has two grandsons with another due in January from Kelly. Danielle is severely disabled with cerebral palsy, water on the brain, meningitis at birth and was given a year to live but Dad stood by mum and spent the first year of her life and their relationship up at King’s College Hospital. She’s a complete daddys girl. Dad would go above and beyond to help people. always cracking jokes and singing even in the worst of times. He will always be my hero and a true legend. “
Bobo Maxworthy said: “ Marisa Crome from Ramsgate because not only was she doing weekly shopping for three other families she also made the time to help me with mine all throughout the first lockdown. She is the best grandmother to my son and unborn son that anyone could hope for.”
Sarah and Chris Young
Joel Young said: “My mum and dad as they host a drop in centre in Hardres Street, Ramsgate, and are planning on delivering food parcels to homeless people every Sunday which I think is amazing especially during winter and these unpredictable times.”
Katie Wells (pictured with Leah) said:” Leah Scott, my best friend not only has had and is still is battling Covid 19 and sadly also lost her her mum to it but she has kept me together through a tough battle with my mental health.
“Leah is a retired mental health nurse but went back to continue to help two days a week. She is so special to me because she has been my best friend and got me through some bad times. This year she was diagnosed with covid and had two spells in hospital, one in ITU. She rang me because her mum was 89 and had breathing difficulties.I helped her mum who sadly passed away later that day. Leah conducted her mum’s funeral with such strength, especially as we weren’t able to hug. A few months later I was in the dark depths of depression. Despite still dealing with the effects of covid Leah has been my pillar of support despite all she had been through.”
Gary Taylor said: “ Without a doubt it has to be Sharon Goodyer and her team. It’s been so difficult for many families coping financially especially through Covid. Her food kitchen, shop in Margate and food parcels being handed out have really helped.”
Rourke and Ann Newstead
Tracey Gregory said: “Anne and Roarke The Kitchen CT9 are amazing. Also all the people who put themselves out there and volunteered to help others during this pandemic.”
Teresa McCloud said: “Steve Carley is an unsung hero. He does so much for the homeless and jobless. He has spent lockdown collecting prescriptions and watching out for the local community. ”
Thanet Food Link team
Grace Rebekah said: “ Debbie Ellisdon & Thanet Food Link Team. Throughout the lockdown, they provided food parcels to the whole of Thanet, 3 days a week, always with a smile on their face, and such warm, warm hearts!”
Dave and Jan Adams from Birchington
Kirsty Griffiths said: “Dave and Jan co-ordinated Birchington Support Group during Lockdown, actively support local businesses and helped keep us sane during a difficult year.”