Awards honour the inspirational

Westminster event for 28 medal winners

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The Independent Online

The inspiring stories behind individuals whose work will be recognised at the inaugural British Citizen Awards (BCA) tomorrow can be revealed by i.

From hundreds of nominations, 28 extraordinary people were chosen to be recipients of the new awards, celebrating the selfless and often vital work they do for others. Each of them will be presented with a medal at a ceremony in Westminster.

Caroline Shearer, from Essex, has worked tirelessly to educate youngsters on the dangers of weapons crime and will receive the British Citizen Award for Service to Community. She set up Only Cowards Carry, a weapons awareness group, in 2012 after her 17-year-old son, Jay, was stabbed to death at a party. Within a year, Ms Shearer and her team had delivered workshops and training programmes to over 20,000 schoolchildren, as well as visiting prisons.

“It’s amazing how many children have been affected by weapons crime,” Ms Shearer said. “There’s not one school we’ve been in that hasn’t got a problem, small or large.”

Speaking of her award, she added: “The credit isn’t just for me, it’s for my team that works 60-70 hours a week. It’s about saving our children’s lives. This isn’t just for me, this is for everybody.”

Meanwhile, Rick Wilson, from Lancashire, will be handed the BCA for Service to Healthcare after he founded an informal running group to benefit the health of local people. Mr Wilson developed the idea after agreeing to take part in a charity run, despite being just under 20-stone at the time. He said: “Everyone looked at me as if to say, ‘he can’t do that,’ and I thought: ‘Yes, I can’.”

However, he added, he had to train independently after finding  “there wasn’t a beginners’ running group for people who could barely walk to the next lamppost, let alone run”.

In August 2013, Mr Wilson founded 5kGroupRun to solve the problem. Working with other volunteers, he has since put more than 2,000 people through the programme, from young children to runners in their 60s and 70s.

“I think the overarching feature of our success is that it’s delivered by volunteers who have all completed the plan themselves,” Mr Wilson added. “They’re people who understand others’ struggles.”

Also being celebrated is Audrey Johnson, who will receive the BCA for Volunteering and Charitable Giving. She helps to run a Greater Manchester foodbank, used by around 100 families each week.

With the help of other local groups, she set up the foodbank through her community church two years ago after becoming aware of the huge demand for such a resource in the area.

Aside from her foodbank commitments, which include collecting discarded food from supermarkets and dispensing it, the mother-of-five also provides emotional support to users of a drop-in coffee shop and provides foster care for babies. “To me, I’m just doing what I feel is in God’s heart,” Mrs Johnson said. “It’s very humbling to win the award. I’m really touched by the people who felt that they wanted to nominate me.”