Elena overcame serious illness to become Britain’s top women’s tennis player, and used her winnings to start a tennis academy for under-privileged children in Ipswich, her home town. She died this month at 30 from liver cancer, just after being nominated for the Happy List.
The respected classicist is Britain’s best-known name in the field. Her profile is unapologetically colourful, and she is a regular guest on BBC’s Question Time. She has delighted us with her historical documentaries, narrated with erudition, enthusiasm and relish for the saucy or bizarre.
The 19-year-old diver took to YouTube last December to announce that he was in a relationship with a man. He was later hailed by many as a perfect role model for young people in similar situations.
Sir Roger De Haan
The former boss of the over-50s insurance firm Saga established the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust in 1978 with his father, Sidney. Roger retired in 2004 and in the past seven years has given £49m to a wide range of charities through the trust. He was knighted in this year’s honours list.
Celtic’s on-pitch celebrations after winning the Scottish Premiership were especially momentous for one young fan. Jay Beatty, who has Down’s syndrome, was given manager Neil Lennon’s winner’s medal before striker Georgios lifted him out the crowd and carried the 10-year-old on a lap of honour in front of 60,000 fans.
The author of the ever popular Adrian Mole series, Sue died last month aged 68, prompting tributes from fans and fellow writers around the world. While the loss remains, so does her work, so that her name will always be spoken with a smile.
The Sky Sports presenter from Sheffield revealed she was sexually abused as a young girl. This year, she pledged to run 250 miles in seven days to campaign against domestic violence, raising around £100,000 for Women’s Aid in the process.
Pharrell’s universally popular song Happy made many people … well, happy. His single, a chart-topper in 24 countries, had an equally gleeful video, which led to numerous “inspired by ...” versions, including one from a group of British Muslims that shattered stereotypes.
After speaking out for women’s education rights in Pakistan, Malala was shot by the Taliban in 2012. This propelled her to international prominence and two nominations for a Nobel Peace prize. This year she has spoken at the UN and met leading global political figures. She continues to campaign worldwide.
Roy Hodgson (with luck)
Probably the most down-to-earth manager England have had in years, Roy is diplomatic without being dishonest, and speaks with intelligence and integrity. Of course, this currently positive public image would be upgraded to something close to godliness should he come back from Brazil cradling the World Cup this summer.
The full list of people who make life better for others
Tom Dowling, community journalist
Nikandre Kopcke, social entrepreneur
Carmel Allen and Josephine Drew, charity founders
Robert Williams, kindness giver
Dolly Saville, legendary barmaid
Martin Griffiths, surgeon/lecturer
Jean Bishop, buzzing fundraiser
Aneeta Prem, anti-slavery campaigner
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